Many believed Marcell Ozuna would sign with an American League team so he could slot in as an everyday designated hitter. The Atlanta Braves had other plans.
Atlanta re-signed Ozuna to a four-year, $64 million deal on Friday night, according to Robert Murray of FanSided. The deal includes a fifth-year option that would raise the total value to $80 million. Ozuna will receive $65 million in guaranteed money thanks to a $1 million buyout on the option.
Source: Marcell Ozuna and the Atlanta Braves are in agreement on a four-year, $65 million deal, pending physical. It can reach $80 million.— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) February 6, 2021
Z101 Digital’s Hector Gomez was first to report a multi-year deal was being finalized.
Ozuna, 30, is approaching the point in his career where he trades his outfielder’s glove for a more permanent slot as a designated hitter, hence the belief that he would land in the American League. However, the Braves witnessed his impact in 2020 as he led the National League in home runs and RBI and worked hard to retain him.
Ozuna appeared in all 60 games last year, spending 21 in the outfield and 39 at designated hitter, which was temporarily introduced in the National League due to the shortened season. In fact, Friday night’s signing could serve as the Braves’ preparation for the permanent implementation of the designated hitter, which could happen within the next year.
A two-time All-Star, Ozuna finished sixth in MVP voting last season. He also won his second career Silver Slugger award.
The CAA Sports client signed with the Miami Marlins as an international free agent in 2008. He spent nearly a decade down south before being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2017. Two years later, he hit free agency and signed with Atlanta, finding himself back in the NL East.
A product of the Dominican Republic, Ozuna slashed an eye-opening .338/.431./636 in the shortened season. He owned a 14.2 percent walk and 22.5 percent strikeout rate while boasting a career-best 179 wRC+. Despite the shortened campaign, he posted a whopping 26.7 offensive WAR, which equates to a whopping one-tenth of a win per plate appearance. Ozuna’s metrics in the field did hurt him, though, as his -7.8 defensive WAR brought him to a total of 2.5 wins in 2020. Of course, this was still the third-best mark of his career, and it came in far fewer games.
Beyond the basic hitting metrics, Ozuna graced several other offensive leaderboards. His xwOBA was among the top one percent in baseball, his xSLG among the top two percent, xBA and hard-hit rate in the top three percent, exit velocity in the top four percent, and barrel percentage in the top six percent. His respectable 14.2 percent walk rate finished in the top one-eighth of the league.
Ultimately, at just $16 million per year, Ozuna’s deal with the Braves should pay dividends for both sides. The outfielder now has a long-term home with a chance to use said consistency to remain one of the league’s most-feared hitters. Meanwhile, Atlanta brings back a critical part of its offense and does not break the bank in the process. This deal marks a fair compromise for both sides and one that Atlanta baseball fans must love.
Of course, while bringing back their feared slugger was a major move, the work is not done for Atlanta. Look for the Braves to stay busy in free agency with less than three weeks until Spring Training games begin.