Atlanta Braves options with Marcell Ozuna’s contract

Marcell Ozuna... formerly of the Atlanta Braves? (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Marcell Ozuna... formerly of the Atlanta Braves? (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

Details provided by Sandy Springs police about the arrest of Atlanta Braves outfielder Marcell Ozuna could work against the player.

Some of the questions we had when Marcell Ozuna’s initial arrest report surfaced on Saturday evening have now been answered.  Other information may impact how the Atlanta Braves proceed from this point as well.

According to a story by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Police have confirmed that the assault charges involve Ozuna and his wife Genesis Guzman — but the details are especially troubling.

  • The Sandy Springs police were on site and witnessed the violence involved.
  • They are calling it an “aggravated assault by strangulation”.  This is a felony with a penalty that ranges from 3 to 20 years in prison.
  • They also witnessed an incident of battery:  specifically alleging that Ozuna hit Genesis with the cast that had just been added last week for his broken fingers.
  • The source of this information is an emailed statement to the AJC newspaper from Sgt. Salvador Ortega of the SSPD.

Now in some prior incidents of domestic violence, criminal prosecution was halted due to a failure of the injured spouse to cooperate with the investigation.  This was certainly the case with Jose Reyes in 2016.

In many instances, the wife/girlfriend/significant other is the only true witness of the violence, and thus her testimony is critical.  It is somewhat cynical to say, but in such instances, “money talks”:  if the player is convicted of wrongdoing, the wife is also effectively cut off when a contract is terminated.  It is therefore in her best interest — strictly speaking monetarily — to refuse testimony.

This case may be different.  With the police arriving in time to witness the crime, their testimony may be more important than that of Guzman — particularly given her own history.

This may lead the Atlanta Braves and MLB to both move quickly.  Passan explains:

"Major League Baseball will launch an investigation that could result in a significant suspension. Further, sources said, the police’s reported witnessing of the incident could prompt the Braves to attempt to convert Ozuna’s four-year, $65 million contract to non-guaranteed."

In our initial report, we noted that felony charges could allow the Braves to escape the remainder of Ozuna’s contract (as of today, he is owed a guaranteed $65 million in total, roughly $8.3 million for the rest of this season and $53 million from 2022+).

If Atlanta can get this accomplished — and it’s likely they will be able to stop checks almost immediately once MLB places Ozuna on the restricted list — then they may actually end up with some funds that could be used to replace him.

Someone like Nick Castellanos — who has a contract with Cincinnati that’s essentially equivalent (with a year of it already done) — would suddenly become a viable option.

Other teams with pending free agents (Chicago/Kris Bryant?) and high-value contracts now can be considered if the Braves can get through the necessary hoops to address this contract situation swiftly.  That’s getting ahead of ourselves, perhaps, but the possibility may exist.

Under the circumstances, you can bet they will try:  in most cases to date, the player involved in the violence has effectively become a pariah in his own town and teams have moved the player elsewhere (or released him).

In most circumstances, though, the original team often has to shoulder a large financial load to make the guaranteed contract go away.  Again, this case could now have a different outcome.

UPDATE:  Ken Rosenthal (TheAthletic – subscription required) has weighed in on this topic, and he believes the Braves will run into trouble if they try to void Ozuna’s deal — felony conviction notwithstanding:

"Teams, in addendums to the UPC [Uniform Player Contract] outlining specific prohibited activities, sometimes include convictions for criminal acts. But the union has long viewed such guarantee language and other addendums as unenforceable because they are not collectively bargained, sources say. And the sport’s domestic-violence policy, which establishes the blueprint for penalties in such matters, would appear to take precedence over the UPC’s reference to “the standards of good citizenship.” The policy does not list the voiding of a contract as a potential form of discipline."

Still: the idea of (effectively) rewarding criminal behavior with a release check for $61 million should bring a strong reaction from all parties involved.

Next. Looking forward to some actual baseball. dark

But with this news, it is certainly possible that we’ve seen the last of Marcell Ozuna in an Atlanta Braves uniform… and possibly any baseball uniform altogether.