Bradley’s Buzz: What should the Braves do with Marcell Ozuna?

Nobody wins them all. This applies to ballgames, and also to personnel moves. We begin with an example of the latter.

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Alex Anthopoulos hasn’t gotten much wrong. Giving Marcell Ozuna a four-year deal for $65 million appears to be an exception. We know Anthoupolos’ reasoning: On a one-year deal as Plan B after Josh Donaldson signed with Minnesota, Ozuna led the NL in home runs and RBIs over the shortened-by-COVID 2020 regular season. He was third in the majors – behind Juan Soto and Freddie Freeman – in OPS.

The Braves re-upped Ozuna, even though they saw him only as a left fielder, which is the least difficult position. Mostly they regarded him as a bat. In May 2021, he broke a finger. Then he was arrested on felony charges of domestic violence. Those charges were reduced to a misdemeanor. Ozuna completed a pretrial diversion program.

MLB suspended him for 20 games, retroactive to last season. Ozuna reported to spring training, apologized to teammates and vowed to be a better person.

Early Friday, Ozuna was arrested in Gwinnett County for DUI. “Sorry, sorry,” he told a police office. “I’m Ozuna from the Braves.”

He refused a breathalyzer test. At the jail, he refused a blood test. At Truist Park later that day, he apologized to his teammates and family. The Braves released a statement saying they “were obviously disappointed.”

ExploreBraves have difficult options after Ozuna arrest

Ozuna started Sunday’s game against the Astros. Said manager Brian Snitker: “We had to play somebody in left.” Also: “He’s a member of our team right now.”

Both Ozuna’s plate appearances were booed by the home crowd. He struck out twice. His WAR, as measured by Baseball-Reference, is minus-1.4, about as low as it gets when you’ve hit 20 homers. (Only three of MLB’s 645 non-pitchers are worse, WAR-wise: Eddie Rosario, Robinson Cano and Yoshi Tsutsugo.)

The kneejerk response would be to cut Ozuna. Teams can’t afford kneejerk responses, especially when they’re headed for the playoffs. (Remember, Adam Duvall has been lost to injury.) Beyond this season, they’ll owe him $37 million. The trading deadline is past. Even if it weren’t, there’s no team so eager to land him that it would assume all, or even half, that $37M.

The boilerplate caveat: In this nation, you’re innocent until proven guilty. News of any arrest sounds ominous, but sometimes cases aren’t what they seem. We know this from Ozuna’s 2021 arrest, which resulted in him being suspended only for games he’d already missed. That said …

Sometimes the only way out of a bad contract is to eat the remainder and chalk it up to experience. He has become a borderline big-leaguer. He’s in no way indispensable; he went six games last week without playing. The universal DH figured to benefit a bad-fielding outfielder, but he has become a lousy hitter, too. He has also been arrested twice in 15 months. He meets the definition of “more trouble than he’s worth.”

ExploreBraves paying price for committing long term to Ozuna

I don’t know that the Braves will do anything with Ozuna over the rest of this season. Come 2023, I’d be surprised if he’s still Ozuna of the Braves.

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About last week

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

The Braves went 5-2 against the Mets and Astros, teams they could see in the playoffs. It’s a shame Sunday’s game slipped away at the end – a 6-1 week against such competition would have ranked among this club’s all-time finest – but we say again: You can’t win them all. The Braves are, however, winning most.

They’re 11-2 since losing that series in Queens. They have MLB’s fourth-best record, having just won five of seven against the teams with the second- and third-best records. They’re good enough to win the World Series again.

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About those Mets

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

My longstanding belief has been that the Mets can mess up anything. (Put another way, they’re the Falcons of baseball.) I’m having to revisit that now. The Mets lost three of four to the Braves and I thought, “OK, here they go.” But no. They won three of four in Philadelphia without Max Scherzer, Jacob de Grom, Carlos Carrasco or Taijuan Walker starting a game.

Say this for the New Yorkers: They’ve owned the Phillies, who themselves are positioned to be a playoff team. The Mets were 14-5 against Philly, which is ridiculous. The Mets are also done with Philly, at least until the postseason. The Braves and Phillies will meet seven more times. They’ve split the first 12 games. Bryce Harper could return soon.

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About Ozuna, his contract and the Braves

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Esteemed colleague Justin Toscano has provided a comprehensive examination of what the Braves can and can’t do re: Ozuna. It’s mandatory reading, as is everything Mr. Toscano writes.