While the Atlanta Braves have several roster decisions that will need to be made during spring training, one player that clouds the picture a good bit is Marcell Ozuna for a number of reasons. While Marcell is owed $16 million over each of the next two seasons, he has been a massive distraction off the field while also being pretty bad on the field. It is clear that if he wasn't owed so much money, the Braves likely would have moved on from him.
That is why what general manager Alex Anthopoulos said earlier this week about Marcell is worth exploring a bit. While making an appearance on 92.9 The Game in Atlanta on Monday, here is what AA had to say about the Braves' plans for Marcell Ozuna in 2023.
The use of the term "meritocracy" here is an interesting one to be sure because based solely on multiple interpretations of the word "merit", Ozuna should already be gone. Not only has he caused harm to others and embarrassed the organization with his multiple arrests over the last couple of years, but he has failed to perform anywhere close to the level needed to justify the contract he signed. There was even some hope that the Braves could try to make some sort of bad contract swap to get rid of him this offseason and while we had some ideas for some swaps that could have made sense, that sort of deal did not happen.
Would the Braves ever cut Marcell Ozuna in spring training?
The reality here is that Anthopoulos was always going to say something along those lines. He would never say "Sorry, we owe him too much money and nobody wants him, so we have to play him so that he can try to rebuild his value" if that were the case (it is probably the case). The Braves are hoping that Ozuna at least plays well enough to give them some production and also making trading him more possible.
The problem, of course, is playing time. Ideally, whichever catcher is not catching on a given day would get most of the DH reps and the Braves have several guys competing for the spot in left field. How much playing time will the Braves force themselves to give Marcell under those conditions especially if a guy like Eddie Rosario or Sam Hilliard plays well this spring?
The most likely scenario is Marcell gets significant playing time while not playing everyday. What exactly that looks like is somewhat unclear, but getting reps in left and DH on a regular basis is a safe bet. At the end of the day, the Braves still owe Ozuna basically the same amount of money they did when they were trying to force him into the lineup during the stretch run last year.
Now that said, over the course of the season, that total money owed is going to tick further and further down and the dead money financial hit the team would take by cutting him loose decreases along the way. While I think that cutting Marcell in spring even if he looks terrible seems highly unlikely, that could change by the trade deadline especially if Ozuna shows any signs of life.