If you ever want to get Atlanta Braves fans worked up into a frenzy, all you have to do is mention Marcell Ozuna's name, what his role on the team should be, and whether or not the Braves should cut him loose. In fairness, it is a fair question because his status is...complicated.
In the wake of his domestic violence arrest in 2021 and then his DUI in 2022, many fans immediately wrote him off and wanted him off the team. Making matters worse, Marcell's play on the field has been atrocious the last couple of seasons. After nearly winning the Triple Crown in 2020, Ozuna posted a 74 wRC+ in the 48 games he did play in 2021 before he got injured and then suspended and then a slightly better, but still pretty bad 88 wRC+ in the 124 games he played in last season.
The problem for the Braves, of course, is money. Atlanta is still on the hook for $16 million a year for the next two seasons and they want to get SOMETHING out of that level of investment. To the surprise of no one, other teams haven't exactly been clamoring to trade for Ozuna given the double whammy of being both bad and coming with a ton of off field baggage.
We certainly did our fair share of musing here on some potential bad contract swaps that could result in Ozuna exiting the roster, but that didn't happen. Based on manager Brian Snitker's comments today, those hoping that the Braves would find a way to shed themselves of Marcell before the season are going to be sorely disappointed.
How long can the Braves keep Marcell Ozuna?
For those hoping that the Braves would make the strictly ethical choice in regards to Ozuna, that ship has long since sailed. If the team was going to make that choice, they would have already. For those that care more about his on-field performance, Snitker's comments seem to indicate that he is going to at least get some kind of chance at playing time in 2023. Ozuna's spring isn't exactly off to a roaring start and there does seem, at present, better options for DH and LF...so how much playing time he actually ends up getting is very much TBD especially with the Braves firmly in their window of contention.
Things could begin to change here, though, during the course of the season. In an ideal world, Ozuna actually plays well enough early to entice another team to take him off the Braves' hands (which the Braves have been trying to accomplish since at least the last trade deadline). The best case scenario for the Braves at this point is that they don't have to end up paying all of Ozuna's contract and maybe even get a player that would have a pulse. An unlikely possibility, but a possibility nonetheless.
The more likely scenario seems like that Ozuna will continue to struggle and get limited playing time on a Braves team that frankly doesn't need him to figure things out. He'll keep getting paid a chunk of money. However, that money owed will get less and less and the sunk cost analysis could start to tip in the direction of releasing him if the Braves cannot trade him. Using a big league roster spot on a guy who can't hit, can't field, and has had a large section of the fan base completely turn on him really only makes any amount of sense if he is owed a lot of money. As that amount goes down, the chances the Braves part ways goes up.