Outfielder Marcell Ozuna intends to decline the $17.8MM qualifying offer and test the open market, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link). He’s said to have received sufficient interest to believe he’ll top the QO in free agency, even with the drag of draft compensation.
Ozuna’s suitors will need to factor in some lost draft assets if they sign him; the precise hit depends upon the team. But with nearly a quarter of the MLB outfits showing some level of interest, per Heyman, it seems the circumstances will create enough bidding to get Ozuna a lengthier contract.
It’s still hard to tell just how things will shake out for a player who has some very strong attributes but also some clear demerits. And it doesn’t help that he’s entering a market filled almost to a bizarre level with roughly similar players. Fellow youthful corner outfielders Nicholas Castellanos, Avisail Garcia, and Yasiel Puig are also looking for new homes. None will be saddled with draft compensation.
While Ozuna has stung the ball repetitively in recent years, he has produced at merely above-average levels. It doesn’t take much to imagine Ozuna slugging again like he did in 2017; after all, he only just reached his 29th birthday today. But it’s also easy to view that standout campaign as a clear outlier, since he hasn’t otherwise produced consistently at anything close to a 143 wRC+ level. Plus, Ozuna’s once-strong defensive chops have taken a hit as he has lost speed and dealt with shoulder problems, though there’s still reason to hope he’ll be a capable defender for a few more years.
Here at MLBTR, we expect the market to treat Ozuna well — just perhaps not quite as well as once seemed possible. We guessed he’d take down a three-year, $45MM pact even after accounting for the draft hit, with teams such as the Giants, Marlins, Reds, Padres, Indians, Tigers, and Royals positioned as plausible contenders for his services.