The Atlanta Braves are in an extremely fortunate position. Going into the deadline, you can argue they should leave their lineup alone and not tinker with its dominance at all. I am here to challenge that thinking and at least ask Alex Anthopoulos (because of course he will read this) to consider this creative move.
Consider Moving Marcell Ozuna
You could easily argue the Braves shouldn't and won't trade Marcell Ozuna. However unlikely when considering his output and contract, I think some creativity could make it work. Marcell has made himself much more appealing over the span of 2023.
Coming off some career lows, on and off the field, since signing a four-year $64 million contract extension with Atlanta, Ozuna has improved this year totaling 21 home runs and slugging .471 thus far. When you throw in a seriously bad month of performance from him in April, you can see how incredible his highs have been to balance that out.
The trade market for legitimate offensive threats at the plate is reportedly dwindling. With the Angels and Cubs removing Ohtani and Bellinger from potential conversations, Ozuna instantly becomes more intriguing. Teams have to take notice of Ozuna's stats from May and June where he OPS'd .986 and .925 respectively. That's two months of Matt Olson, essentially! There are clubs all over the league that would sign up for his production right now, even if it is at DH only.
"DH only" is the next part of this that makes it worth considering. In the playoffs, and assuming health, there is a likely scenario where Sean Murphy catches most, if not all, playoff games because of his elite defensive play. If that is the case, DH'ing Marcell (because I think we can agree he will ABSOLUTELY NOT be playing any left field) ultimately means Travis d'Arnaud is diminished to a late-inning pinch-hitting role.
Outside of hitting home runs, d'Arnaud has been the better hitter in every statistical category in 2023 and the much more consistent performer over the last three years. Would Alex Anthopoulos and Brian Snitker be comfortable losing playoff games knowing they have an elite hitting catcher, sitting on the bench?
Now, you could convince me that AA will choose to keep Ozuna and have Snit use him as a pinch hitter in October while the playoff DH is largely taken by d'Arnaud. Personally, I like that idea if you can't move Ozuna in any meaningful way before tomorrow's deadline. But I would much prefer a cheaper option with just as much production such as Adam Duvall, for example. That leads us to the financial aspect of this.
If you are the Braves, do you really want to bench someone in the most meaningful games that you are paying $16 million a year to? Not to mention the last installment of $16 million for next year as well? Let's say the Braves were able to strike a deal with an offensive-hungry team (Guardians, Marlins, Brewers....) and offer to pay half of next year's salary.
This could allow Atlanta to start Eddie Rosario in left field in October, acquire a platoon bat if needed for this year, and open up $8-16 million depending on the details of the hypothetical trade. You also have $9 million dedicated to Rosario this year, which in theory, is likely off the books next year as well. If anybody could turn that money into an everyday left fielder for Atlanta in 2024, it's probably Alex Anthopoulos.
So, when you consider the implications Marcell and his contract have on this year's playoffs and next year's team, there is a world where trading him not only makes sense but could potentially be the best thing for the Braves. Whether it is for a middling pitcher in return or even just a straight money dump, though not likely, Ozuna's Braves tenure may need to come to an end. Do you think the Braves can find another team to play ball by tomorrow?