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Re-evaluating the Marcell Ozuna Trade

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All four prospects acquired by the Marlins have now reached the Majors

Toronto Blue Jays v Atlanta Braves Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Following the 2017 season, the Cardinals search for a middle of the order bat led them to the Marlins and Marcell Ozuna. At the time, Ozuna was coming off the best season of his career with 37 home runs, a .388 wOBA, and 143 wRC+. In order to acquire the slugger, the Cardinals exchanged Magneuris Sierra, as well as three pitching prospects in Zac Gallen, Daniel Castano, and Sandy Alcantara. Even though the Cardinals traded from positions of depth in the minor leagues, this was still a good haul as they received some of the top prospects in the Cardinals system. In fact, heading into the 2017 season, Fangraphs ranked Sandy Alcantara the 3rd best prospect in the organization, Magneuris Sierra the 9th best prospect, and Zac Gallen the 23rd best.

Over three years later, this trade seems to favor the Marlins, although there is still plenty of time before a definite conclusion can be made. In two seasons with the Cardinals, Ozuna posted a solid 5.3 WAR, but the outfielder never had the same success as he did in 2017. In his two seasons in St. Louis, Ozuna posted a wRC+ of 109 in 2018, and 107 in 2019. This is a solid output, but clearly Ozuna did not become the middle of the order force that the Cardinals may have been looking for. However, since Ozuna signed with the Braves as a free agent, the Cardinals received a compensation pick which turned out to be prep right-hander Tink hence who appears to be a solid prospect.

On the other hand, the Marlins have seen all four prospects acquired in the Ozuna trade reach the major leagues. Daniel Castano, the last one to do so, made his debut on August 8th while the other three players have accrued a good amount of MLB experience. This makes it somewhat easier to evaluate this trade.

Zac Gallen appears to have been the real proze acquired by the Marlins as he finished last season with a 2.81 ERA and 3.61 FIP which was good for 1.6 fWAR in just 80 innings. The right-hander has continued his success in 2020 as he has made three solid starts. However, following Gallen’s hot start to his big league career, the Marlins traded him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league shortstop Jazz Chisolm who was rated by Fangraphs as the Marlins top prospect entering the 2020 season. Gallen only posted 0.8 fWAR in a Marlins uniform, but the Marlins may still receive plenty of value from Chisolm who has an enticing profile of power and speed at a premium defensive position, even if he does struggle a bit with strikeouts.

Additionally, Sandy Alcantara has established himself in the rotation, posting 2.5 fWAR in the last two seasons, including 2.3 fWAR in 2019 after throwing 197 13 innings last year. His 3.88 ERA was solid, but his 4.55 FIP and 5.17 xFIP left something to be desired. Despite this, he is still just 24 years old and has plenty of team control left, as well as plenty of time to improve. Daniel Castano, the least renowned pitcher acquired by the Marlins, may have some promsie in his arm, although it is still too early to tell what he will become. The southpaw tallied a strong 2.53 FIP at Double-A last season, but due to COVID-19, he made his MLB debut this season before ever throwing a pitch at the Triple-A level. He was roughed up a bit in his first start, but he may get the chance to throw more innings at the big league level before the year is up.

Finally, Magneuris Sierra, the sole bat acquired by the Marlins in the trade, struggled in his first 156 plate appearances with the Marlins in 2018 as he posted -1.5 fWAR and batted below the Mendoza line. However, despite struggling at Triple-A in 2019, he tallied 0.5 fWAR and a 117 wRC+ in 42 big league plate appearances in the same year. The outfielder has also started the 2020 season strong in a small sample size, and it will be interesting to watch him this year and see if he has turned a corner.

Overall the trade looks like this:

Cardinals:

Marcell Ozuna: 5.3 fWAR + Tink Hence

Marlins:

Zac Gallen: 0.8 fWAR + Jazz Chisolm

Daniel Castano: -0.1 fWAR

Magneuris Sierra: -0.7 fWAR

Sandy Alcantara: 2.6 fWAR

Cumulative fWAR: 2.6 + Jazz Chisolm

Marcell Ozuna was a solid player for the Cardinals for two seasons and his departure allowed the Cardinals to acquire Tink Hence. Due to this it is difficult to view this trade as a failure for the Cardinals. However, Zac Gallen has developed into a strong MLB starter while Sandy Alcantara and Magneuris Sierra have spent parts of three seasons in the major leagues and appear to be finding their footing. There are still plenty of unknowns about Daniel Castano and Jazz Chisolm but Chisolm is rated as a strong prospect and Castano could still establish himself as a starter as well. There is a decent chance that the Marlins acquired three MLB-caliber starting pitchers as well as a potentially starting outfielder and their top prospect. This is a solid haul and it is beginning to look like this trade may be favoring the Marlins, even though Marcell Ozuna gave the Cardinals two solid seasons.