Mark Feinsand is an MLB.com Executive Reporter and an MLB.com Network Insider. He landed the bombshell rumor this morning that the Reds are still making a push to sign free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna.
The market for Marcell Ozuna may be gaining some clarity. According to a source, the Reds, Cardinals and Rangers are among the teams still making a push for the slugger. Other teams could still be in play, but these three appear to be the frontrunners.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) January 2, 2020
Skepticism is warranted. Feinsand cites “a source” not multiple. As always with rumors like this, try to figure out who has an interest in leaking it. There’s a good chance the leak comes from a representative of the player, a person who would have strong motivation to exaggerate the active bidding on Ozuna. That said, reports like these generally end up being largely accurate.
If it is accurate in terms of the Reds, it would be stunning news for a couple reasons:
- Early this week, the Reds reportedly agreed to terms with Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama. Adding Akiyama to an already crowded OF roster would have seemed to be the final move at that position.
- A recent projection had the Ozuna contract up to $100 million over 5 years. Adding a commitment like that would put the Reds well above last year’s payroll and beyond our updated (conservative) projections of how much they have left to spend.
At the end of October, I wrote about Ozuna and why the Reds should target him. I outlined reasons many people were underestimating Ozuna’s upside in 2020. But my view then was that Ozuna would be a good play if he came in at value, say 3 years and $50 million. Whether Marcell Ozuna is worth $20 million for five years is another question. Ozuna may well be a 3-WAR player, in which case he’d be worth $20 million this year and next. Beyond that, $20 million/year would become an overpay.
What this means if the report is accurate and they struck a deal with Ozuna:
Roster The Reds would almost certainly trade one or more of their existing outfielders. Ozuna would play one corner. Akiyama could play center or the other corner. In that scenario, Nick Senzel could easily be traded. So could Jesse Winker and Aristides Aquino.
Payroll If the Reds take on an additional $20 million in salary, it would push their projected payroll to $146 million, almost $20 million above last season’s record amount.
Shortstop Upgrade In that case, it would be hard to imagine them also dealing for a large shortstop salary. Francisco Lindor will make in the neighborhood of $17 million this year and $25 million in 2021. The club would almost certainly look to move Freddy Galvis ($5.5 million), possibly as part of the Lindor trade. Even then, Lindor’s salary on top of Ozuna’s would put the Reds payroll to nearly $160 million. One option would be shifting attention to a less expensive shortstop upgrade, such as the Dodgers’ Corey Seager. Seager is projected to make around $8 million.
I still feel Ozuna will end up back with the Cardinals. But wow, it’s a Reds rumor worth following.
[Featured image: https://twitter.com/Cardinals/status/1182026094930808832/photo/1]