It’s mostly of historical interest at this point, but the Reds’ pursuit of Marcell Ozuna was perhaps more spirited than was known at the time. The Cincinnati club offered him a three-year, $50MM contract, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network (Twitter link).
Though it is somewhat unusual for a player to turn down a similar annual salary over a longer term for one on a shorter term, that’s just what Ozuna did. He picked the Braves’ offer of one year and $18MM. Whether the Reds also would’ve considered a single-season arrangement isn’t clear.
For Ozuna, this was a calculated gamble — not unlike the one he took when he spurned the Marlins’ interest in an extension way back when. He’s still just 29 years of age and has shown rather an impressive offensive ceiling (143 wRC+ in 2017).
If Ozuna can turn in another campaign along those lines, he might well earn a much larger contract. Even if not, another solid effort could allow him to take down something close to or even in excess of what the Reds would’ve paid him. At the same time, there’s always risk — especially for a corner outfielder who has endured some shoulder problems and sagging numbers of late.
This bit of information is obviously also interesting because of its impact on the rest of the market. The Reds went on to strike a multi-year pact with Nick Castellanos, promising him $64MM over four seasons in a deal that he can opt out of after either of the first two campaigns.
It’s still a bit unclear how the market interplay between these players unfolded, but it was obviously a major factor. Notably, the Castellanos deal is far more desirable from the player’s perspective than that obtained by Ozuna from the Braves. After all, the former’s contract conveys both the upside of a possible return to the open market as well as long-term security. Unless Ozuna had another reason to prefer Atlanta, it stands to reason that his offer from the Reds did not include such generous opt-out opportunities.
Signing Ozuna cost a draft pick, it’s worth noting, since he turned down a qualifying offer from the Cardinals. He’s also no longer eligible to receive one in the future. The Reds might’ve been more comfortable with the structure they gave Castellanos since he did not cost a pick up front and remains eligible to receive a QO if he opts out (thus carrying the possibility of eventual draft compensation to the team).