Cardinals left fielder Marcell Ozuna was one of 10 players to receive a qualifying offer before the deadline Monday. Should he turn it down, Ozuna will reach free agency with draft-pick compensation hanging over his head. But if Ozuna accepts, he’d return to the Cardinals in 2020 on a $17.8MM price tag. As of now, though, there’s at least some chance of a multiyear contract between the Cardinals and Ozuna that would negate the qualifying offer. The club has recently talked with Ozuna’s agent, Melvin Roman of MDR Sports Management, and will meet again with him in the next 10 days to explore a new contract, Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. Ozuna has until Nov. 14 to take or reject the QO.
This is the first reported instance of the Cardinals showing serious interest in re-signing Ozuna, undoubtedly one of the premier unsigned position players in baseball. The soon-to-be 29-year-old Ozuna has made it known on multiple occasions he’d like to stay in St. Louis, where he has played since the Cardinals acquired him from the Marlins entering the 2018 campaign.
Ozuna was coming off a tremendous season when the Cardinals traded for him, though he has been more good than exemplary since then. He’s now on the heels of a 2.8-fWAR campaign in which he hit .243/.330/.474 with 29 home runs and a personal-best 12 stolen bases in 549 plate appearances. Ozuna’s production led to a 110 wRC+, meaning he was 10 percent better than the league-average offensive player. That’s obviously closer to solid than stellar, but the longtime Statcast darling did continue to thrive in that regard this season. Ozuna’s expected weighted on-base average (.382) blew past his real wOBA (.336) and ranked in the top 8 percent of baseball. His hard-hit rate (49.2 percent) was even better, defeating all but 4 percent of hitters.
Ozuna’s reps are likely to push his Statcast excellence when trying to secure a new deal for their client. And MLBTR expects Ozuna to do fairly well on the market despite a QO, as his projection (three years, $45MM) ranks as our 11th-highest guarantee among free agents and falls behind just one other corner outfielder (Nicholas Castellanos) in a market rife with flawed options. Whether the Cardinals would dole out that type of money over a multiyear period is up in the air, but by extending a QO, they’ve already shown a willingness to keep Ozuna around at a pricey figure for at least another season. For now, with Ozuna’s status in limbo, the reigning National League Central champions count Dexter Fowler, Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, Tommy Edman, Jose Martinez, Lane Thomas, Yairo Munoz, Randy Arozarena and coveted prospect Dylan Carlson among their outfield options who remain under control.