What happened. The St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to acquire outfield Marcell Ozuna from the Miami Marlins in exchange for RHP Sandy Alcantara, OF Magneuris Sierra, RHP Zac Gallen, and LHP Daniel Castano. The deal is pending physicals.
The story. The Cardinals have been on the market for a middle of the order hitter to add to their lineup and after trying to land Giancarlo Stanton, it looks like they’ve found their man in his former teammate Marcell Ozuna.
The numbers. Ozuna, 27, hit .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs and a 142 wRC+ last season for the Miami Marlins. He led the Marlins in batting average and on base percentage last season as well as being second in home runs and slugging percentage. Over four full time seasons in the Majors, Ozuna has hit .278/.333/.465 with 93 home runs in 583 games.
He has two arbitration years remaining and is projected to earn $10.9 million this season.
Alcantara, 21, posted a 4.31 ERA over 22 starts and 3 relief appearances for Double-A Springfield this season which earned him a September call up to the big league club. There he posted a 4.32 ERA over 8 relief appearances. He had a 4.20 ERA in 5 starts in the Arizona Fall League. He is the Cardinals’ #9 prospect according to MLB.com.
Sierra, also 21, hit .317/.359/.317 in 22 games in the big leagues this season as injury needs saw him make the job from High A ball to the Majors. Overall in the minors, Sierra hit .270/.318/.363 with 1 home run between Peoria and Springfield He is the Cardinals’ #6 prospect according to MLB.com.
Gallen, 22, is a former 3rd round pick of the Cardinals from the 2016 MLB Draft. He posted a 2.93 ERA over 26 starts between High A Palm Beach, Double-A Springfield, and Triple-A Memphis.
Castano, 23, is a former 19th round pick of the Cardinals from the 2016 MLB Draft as well. He most recently posted a 2.57 ERA over 14 starts for Low-A State College.
The impact. 8/10. Acquiring Ozuna is not the model shattering move that acquiring Giancarlo Stanton would have been, but it’s a quality addition for the club that needed a potential difference maker in the lineup.
I’ve been in on the Cardinals acquiring Ozuna since last winter when I named him one of my five players the Cardinals should be interested in. He responded with a career year that put himself on the map as a potential impact bat. After the Cardinals came up empty on Stanton, he was my preferred outfielder if the Cardinals went back to Miami looking for help.
There is no magic number I can give you that will convince you of what I believe, that Ozuna is a better acquisition than Christian Yelich, and I understand that he isn’t the surefire difference maker in the same way that Stanton was going to be, but he can definitely help. His wRC+ last season ranked 13th in Major League Baseball among qualified hitters last season, just five spots behind his new outfield partner Tommy Pham.
It’s unclear exactly how the Cardinals will align their outfield, but in comparison to the other two positions last year, the Cardinals struggled in right field with a 101 wRC+. Of the three projected starting outfielders for the Cardinals, Dexter Fowler‘s 121 wRC+ last season is the lowest.
As far as the cost, the Cardinals just acquired the man who was the 13th best offensive player in baseball last season who is 27 years old and just won a gold glove award without surrendering a top-100 prospect. Beyond that, without surrendering one of their own top-5 prospects, leaving plenty of muscle for an additional move for another bat or a closer.
Alcantara is probably the one that hurts the most, but in my opinion, he is the kind of pitcher that prospect evaluators love because their pitches have so much potential but they never live up to that potential because players don’t generally improve their control as they rise up through the minors into the Majors. I have similar problems with Alex Reyes. The pure stuff is sexy, but once MLB hitters figure out what you can and can’t throw for strikes, the clock strikes midnight.
If we’re honest, Sierra is probably not an MLB starter, though his speed and defensive abilities will probably keep him around. Gallen put up solid numbers and will be interesting to watch. If I was a betting man, I’d suggest that he is most likely to have the best MLB career out of all of them. Castano is so low in the minors that anything could happen.
This is likely not the final move for the Cardinals this week. The club will still need to find a taker for Stephen Piscotty to help clear up the outfield situation and they’re deep into discussions with Tampa for at least a closer.
If the changes that Ozuna made at the plate for the 2017 season are for real, the Cardinals got a steal. If not, I think his floor is still high enough to be a productive member of the lineup. And if you don’t get what you expect, you’re not attached to him for the next five years.