Why Marcell Ozuna could be just what the Mariners need

Marcell Ozuna hits homerun

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – OCTOBER 15: Marcell Ozuna #20 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates with third base coach Ron Washington after hitting a solo home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the seventh inning in Game Four of the National League Championship Series at Globe Life Field on October 15, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

After a great 2020 season, Marcell Ozuna is hitting the open market. The Mariners should go after him this offseason for one big reason.

Marcell Ozuna and the Braves made it all the way to a Game 7 in the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers but of course, came up short in the pursuit of their first World Series appearance since 1999. Now the star outfielder Ozuna will head to free agency after the best season in his eight-year career.

Ozuna’s 2020 was superb. He played in all 60 regular-season games and led the league in plate appearances with 267, home runs with 18, RBI’s with 56, and total bases with 145. He had a batting line of .338/.431/.636 which led to a 1.067 OPS. With all of these stats it’s interesting to wonder that whenever you hear about the Braves in the MVP race, why is Freddie Freeman the only one you hear about?

Well, the answer to that is Ozuna’s defense. He only played 21 games in the outfield and was a major benefactor of the NL DH rule for 2020 as he played 39 games as the designated hitter. In just 21 games in the outfield, he had a -0.6 defensive WAR which is far below average and he has had a negative dWAR 3 of the last 4 seasons. The only year it was not negative was 2017 when it was 0.0 and he won a Gold Glove with the Miami Marlins.

So why should the Mariners go after Ozuna in free agency?

The biggest reason that Marcell Ozuna would be perfect for the Mariners is because of his record of hitting against left-handers. This past season the Mariners had the worst OPS vs left-handed pitching in the entire MLB at .609. Even if you were looking towards the future, Jarred Kelenic is a left-handed batter is a much worse hitter against lefties than he is against righties.

Ozuna has a great track record against lefties as his OPS last season was 1.330 against left-handed pitching. He also had 7 home runs against lefties on just 54 plate appearances. For his career, he has an .866 OPS against lefties in 846 plate appearances.

Even if Kelenic were to be brought up to the bigs, along with Trammell and Julio Rodriguez in just a few years, Ozuna could partner now with Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger in the outfield, and then assume the role of DH or rotate with Lewis, Kelenic, Trammell, and Rodriguez.

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Ozuna could also be a bargain buy for a star player because of his up and down offense and defense in his career, and the Mariners could hope that his great short season continues into next year. If the Mariners could sign Ozuna on a similar deal to Josh Donaldson with the Twins, in a 3-4 years range with $70-90 million in salary, it would be absolutely worth it to bring the 29-year-old in for the rebuild that looks to be over shortly.