Once the Braves get healthy, they should cut ties with Marcell Ozuna

San Diego Padres v Atlanta Braves
San Diego Padres v Atlanta Braves / Matthew Grimes Jr./Atlanta Braves/GettyImages

Whenever one talks about Marcell Ozuna and his place on the Atlanta Braves' roster, it is a loaded subject and for good reason. His off the field issues that include a domestic violence arrest for which he was suspended as well as a DUI charge have turned many Braves fans against him and on top of that, he has been downright bad ever since signing a lucrative contract extension.

We are not going to relitigate the Braves' past decision-making regarding Ozuna because, frankly, it isn't productive at this point. The organization made the decision to keep Marcell and play him fairly regularly in order to get SOMETHING out of all of that money they gave him (although to their credit, they have entertained bad contract swap deals in the past for Marcell although they were unsuccessful). Reasonable people can disagree on that course for action, but what is done is done.

The hope was that Ozuna would figure out how to be at least semi-productive to either A) making keeping him around a slightly less painful experience and/or B) making trading him elsewhere more likely because there are not a lot of teams wanting to pay north of $16 million a year for two years of a guy that you can't really play in the field nor can they hit anymore.

The early returns on the Braves' gambit are, well, not good. In 33 plate appearances in 2023, Ozuna has slashed .071/.212/.286 with a wRC+ of 35 and the advanced metrics are (mostly) equally unkind with his average exit velocity, hard hit percentage, xBA, K%, and Whiff% all ranking from poor to very poor. While one could chalk this up to small sample size variance in a vacuum, when taken with Ozuna's decline in 2022...a big logical leap isn't required to say that Ozuna probably isn't going to get much done in the Braves' lineup.

Cutting Ozuna loose is complicated by the Atlanta Braves' injury situation

Unfortunately, the situation isn't as simple as just "Ozuna isn't good, so cut him" right now. Aside from the financial considerations which at this point appear to be a sunk cost, the Braves have some injuries that are mucking up the waters. In a perfect world, some combination of whatever catcher isn't playing between Sean Murphy and Travis d'Arnaud as well as the Braves' outfield bench on any given day would rotate through the Braves' designated hitter spot.

However, such lineup management isn't really possible right now. Travis d'Arnaud got a concussion recently that has the team concerned and rightly so since this is the fourth known concussion of his career. The Braves starting center fielder, Michael Harris II, is also on the IL with an injured back although it does look like he should return as soon as he is eligible. Being down those two bats means the Braves don't exactly have a plethora of options to fill gaps at the moment.

Once the Braves get healthy, Ozuna's time should be short

I'm not going to project when TdA is going to be well enough to take the field again as concussions are legitimately spooky and it sure sounds like the Braves are not going to force anything with him. However, when Money Mike is back, a certain amount of flexibility returns to the DH spot. Sure, the left field grouping of Eddie Rosario, Sam Hilliard, Kevin Pillar, and Eli White haven't been particularly awesome this year, but there is at least upside with those guys and it sure doesn't seem like Marcell has much at all at this point.

I don't expect the Braves to release Ozuna as soon as Harris or even TdA are back and neither should fans. However, the experiment of giving Marcell this much playing time early on has not paid dividends and, when healthy, the roster just has better options available. The sensible path, to me at least, is to scale back his playing time considerably once guys start returning from the injured list and see what they have from them. From there, as the end of April comes, the team needs to take a hard look at the value of the roster spot that Ozuna is occupying and turning into a void. This organization values depth and, to be blunt, keeping Marcell around isn't doing them any favors there.