Rumor check: Christian Yelich & Marcell Ozuna

According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, the Cardinals have interest in the Marlins’ outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna and the Marlins have sent a top executive to scout Cardinals’ pitching prospect Dakota Hudson‘s last start.

There’s been a lot of love for Christian Yelich among my Twitter follows over the past year and change, and after his 2016 season I sort of understand why. However, his numbers have once again slowed this season showing him more likely to be a .290/.360/.410 hitter than the guy who hit 21 home runs last year and put up a 130 wRC+.

He is a solid player, but I basically see him as a left handed Stephen Piscotty. And I’m constantly being reminded that Piscotty is not the kind of hitter this club needs. He is more of what these Cardinals already have. A doubles hitter who can put up a good OBP.

I don’t get too excited about him and think that the majority of the excitement around him is the hope that he can repeat 2016 and he has 4 years, $44.5 million remaining on his current contract. That could go to 5 years, $58.25 million if his $15 million option for 2022 were to get picked up.

Of the two Marlins outfielders listed, I prefer Marcell Ozuna. If you’ve been around since November, Ozuna headlined a list of five players I felt the Cardinals should be interested over the winter. Reports are that they did check in on him over the winter, but obviously that went nowhere. Or perhaps just laying the groundwork for a future trade.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Ozuna has had a career start tot he season. He is batting .317/.375/.563 with 23 home runs in 90 games for the Marlins. All four numbers would stand as career highs. So to acquire him now would seem to be buying high. However, over the past 30 days his numbers have slowed a bit, down to .286/.327/.510 with 6 home runs, which may have an effect on his trade value.

Over the previous three seasons, Ozuna is averaging .265/.316/.433 with 25 doubles, 4 triples, and 19 home runs per season. He has now hit 23 home runs in three of the last four seasons.

Some of the complaints I see about Ozuna is that he is essentially Randal Grichuk. I disagree. He is what we wish Randal Grichuk could be. He walks more, strikes out less, makes more contact, and hits for a better average than Grichuk. And he’s done this over the course of now his fourth full season in the big leagues. Meanwhile Grichuk has yet to spend a full season with the big league club since debuting four seasons ago.

Ozuna’s contract situation is not as appealing as Yelich’s, as he has two more seasons of arbitration remaining before free agency. He’s also represented by Scott Boras, so it is safe to assume that Ozuna will hit free agency after the 2019 season.

Ozuna over Yelich to me is an easy choice because the Cardinals have guys who are supposed to get on base. What they lack is a hitter with some thump who can drive those guys in. Ozuna would give them that while Yelich remains a question mark.

In return it looks like the Marlins are interested in Dakota Hudson. Hudson, 22, was drafted in the first round of the 2016 draft by the Cardinals. He put himself on the map last year posting a 0.68 ERA over 13 innings between Palm Beach and the Gulf Coast League. MLB.com rated him the Cardinals’ 9th best prospect entering the season.

He has a 2.77 ERA in 16 starts for Double-A Springfield this season.

On the surface, Yelich seems to be the kind of player that the Cardinals would find more appealing. High OBP, has flashed some power and has plenty of team control remaining. However, Ozuna provides more power and may be closer to the kind of player they need.

They’ve also checked in on Ozuna before, as this kind of parallels what they did with Matt Holliday, having checked in on him at multiple points before finally pulling the trigger to acquire him in 2009.

My feel would be that the Marlins would be more likely to deal Ozuna than Yelich since Yelich’s stock is likely to be down a little bit right now. He is also on a team friendly contract for an organization that needs inexpensive players. Meanwhile there is less guarantee for Ozuna, who they may feel the need to trade now while he has maximum value.

For that reason I buy this rumor. Obviously it depends on what else goes to Miami with Hudson, but if the Cardinals could fill one of their needs without giving up one of their top shelf prospects, even if Hudson is on his way to joining that list, I don’t know how you say no.