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Braves’ Marcell Ozuna primed for big contract after huge postseason

Braves' Marcell Ozuna primed for big contract after huge postseason

Marcell Ozuna bet on himself last winter and likely will be rewarded handsomely for it.

After his former club, the Cardinals, extended him a qualifying offer — meaning a team would need to surrender a draft pick to sign him — Ozuna’s market value was far from peak. He took a one-year deal worth $17 million from the Braves and will reenter free agency this offseason with an even shinier résumé, exempt from the possibility a qualifying offer will be attached to him because a player can’t be tagged two straight years.

Ozuna, who will turn 30 next month, led the National League with 17 homers and 56 RBIs. Over the 60-game sprint, he had a career season, with a .338/.441/.636 slash line and NL-leading 145 total bases.

Then there is the spotlight factor. On a big stage Thursday night, in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, he smashed two homers as part of a 4-for-5 performance with four RBIs.

That’s just in case Ozuna’s .476 batting average in last year’s NLDS for the Cardinals went unnoticed.

Marcell Ozuna
Marcell OzunaGetty Images

“It’s a time you’re not going to have every year,” Ozuna said, referring to the playoffs. “God gave me the opportunity to play two years in a row. I have to do my best.”

Another factor that broke for Ozuna and Atlanta this year was the universal DH, allowing the Braves to remove a subpar glove from the outfield. Whether the Braves will move to re-sign him could hinge on whether the DH remains in the NL next year. That decision is expected to be reached by MLB and the Players Association early in the offseason, allowing NL teams to plan accordingly.

Among the teams that likely won’t pursue Ozuna are the Mets, who already have an overflow of corner outfielders and DH possibilities. Those options include Dominic Smith, Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis. Smith could play first base with Pete Alonso as the primary DH if the 2020 rules are extended. But if the DH is eliminated, Smith would move to left field, leaving the team to juggle McNeil and Davis.

Ozuna’s formative years were spent in Miami, where he twice was selected to the National League All-Star team. He even won a Gold Glove in 2017, but his defensive skills have since diminished.

“I admired him across the diamond for years,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “What he did to the middle of our lineup — I don’t think you can go out and find anybody that did more for our club this year than Marcell.”

It’s a lineup that includes MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, elite talent Ronald Acuna Jr. and former Mets catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who enjoyed a career season.

The Braves began Friday night within a victory of the franchise’s first World Series berth since 1999 based largely on a lineup that averaged 6.5 runs in the first four games of the series.

Ozuna was in a 2-for-13 rut in the series before his breakout game against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers bullpen. His multi-homer game was the eighth in Braves postseason history and first since 2001, when Chipper Jones accomplished the feat.

“I was struggling a little, jumping forward,” Ozuna said. “I swing crazy. I am staying a little bit more back the way I was before the season ended and got some success.”

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Christine Watkins

Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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