The Marlins have been rumored to be dangling Yelich and Ozuna in recent months as they attempt to reduce payroll in advance of Jeffrey Loria selling the team. The Cardinals are in need of stability in the middle of their lineup, so either Marlins outfielder would be a good fit.
Ozuna is under club control through the 2019 season, while Yelich is in the third season of a seven-year deal worth $49.57 million with a $15 million club option for 2022. That long-term controllability would be attractive for the Cardinals, who still have a chance to make the playoffs this year but certainly need to upgrade for 2018 and beyond. It’d also make them difficult to acquire, though, especially since Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports last week that Miami has “no intention to trade” either outfielder.
Ozuna, 26, would immediately become the most imposing hitter in the Cardinals’ lineup. His .317 average, .563 slugging percentage, .938 OPS, and 23 home runs would all rank best among qualified Cardinals hitters, and his .375 on-base percentage is exceeded only by Matt Carpenter’s .378 OBP. With the Cardinals having struggled to fill the No. 3 and 4 holes in their lineup for the past two years, he’d be a nearly-perfect fit.
Yelich, 25, would be a solid addition to nearly any lineup, as he has a .292/.368/.427 career slash line through five major-league seasons and tapped into his power last year, hitting a career-high 21 home runs. Perhaps most significantly for the Cardinals, who have been crippled by a lack of crisp fundamental play over the past two seasons, Yelich is a strong defender capable of playing all three outfield positions. But Yelich hasn’t been much of a power hitter this year, slashing .288/.364/.412 with eight homers in 386 plate appearances, so he may just provide more of the same to a Cardinals outfield that already has similar players in Dexter Fowler and Stephen Piscotty.
While Fowler is locked in as the Cardinals’ everyday center fielder, it’d be interesting to see who’d yield more playing time to Yelich: left fielder Tommy Pham, who has a .903 OPS since being recalled from Triple-A in early May, or Piscotty, who has a .719 OPS this year after signing a six-year contract worth $33.5 million in April. Beyond 2017, Piscotty is almost certain to get the benefit of the doubt, which could mean Pham ends up back on the bench, even after a breakout season.
Feinsand reported that the Marlins sent a top baseball operations executive to scout the last start of 2016 Cardinals first-rounder Dakota Hudson, who allowed three earned runs on four hits and two walks over 4.2 innings against the Arkansas Travelers. Hudson, who has skyrocketed through the Cardinals’ system and has spent the whole year with Double-A Springfield, has a 2.77 ERA and 1.31 WHIP with 69 strikeouts and 30 walks in 100.2 innings.
In order to obtain Yelich or Ozuna, it’d almost certainly cost the Cardinals more than Hudson, who is currently ranked as their No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline. But with the Cardinals possessing five of the league’s top 100 prospects (right-handers Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, and Jack Flaherty, catcher Carson Kelly, and shortstop Delvin Perez) as ranked by Pipeline, they’d likely have enough intriguing talent to pull off a deal.