Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press
The Miami Marlins reportedly agreed to trade outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.
Craig Mish of SiriusXM first reported the deal was in place. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported top pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara is heading to Miami in the trade.
Ozuna posted a terrific .312/.376/.548 slash line with 37 home runs in 2017.
The 27-year-old left fielder first started to showcase impressive power potential en route to 54 extra-base hits, including 23 homers, during the 2014 campaign. His numbers dropped off in 2015, however, as he hit just 10 homers in 123 games and got sent to the minors for about five weeks.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported in October 2015 that the front office had become split over the outfielder. Some members wanted to keep him, while former owner Jeffrey Loria was “down on him.” Ozuna noted at the time there wasn’t much he could do about the situation.
“I like it here, but if they don’t want me, I can’t control it. I will learn from this year,” he said.
The situation isn’t uncommon. When a young player flashes upside but battles inconsistency, the team is left in a tricky situation, especially with Miami’s new ownership group looking to slash payroll before the 2018 campaign.
On one side, the Marlins knew they could still get solid value for Ozuna based on his age and the fact he played much better as his power returned. He finished 2016 with 23 homers before breaking out in 2017. The downside is waiting too long to make a move and seeing another drop-off.
Miami has eliminated that risk, but the Dominican Republic native could make the Marlins regret the move by maintaining a high level of play in 2018 and beyond.
Probably the biggest key for Ozuna is becoming more disciplined at the plate. His walk-to-strikeout ratio of 0.27 in 2015 would have ranked in a tie for 20th-worst in the majors if he had enough at-bats to qualify, according to FanGraphs.
He started to make some strides over the past few years, raising that ratio to 0.44 in 2017 (a middling 78th). Becoming even more selective would not only help him improve his on-base percentage, but it would also go a long way in helping him see better pitches. A change of scenery and a new coaching staff could help him in that regard.
He’ll join a Cardinals lineup that needed another slugger after finishing 18th in homers last season. He slots in alongside Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham in the outfield and should immediately hit in the middle of the order with Yadier Molina and Jose Martinez.
All told, Ozuna’s play in 2016 and 2017 showed he can make a significant impact and made him worth the investment.