Earlier this week the free agent outfield market got a little bit thinner when Marcell Ozuna signed a 1-year deal with the Atlanta Braves for $18M. The now former St. Louis Cardinal (and Miami Marlins) was projected to get a much better, longer deal than that when the offseason began. The Cardinals made a qualifying offer to Ozuna expecting him to pass on it and get a bigger deal, leaving them with an additional draft pick in 2020 as compensation. They would ultimately get that pick, but Ozuna didn’t get quite what he was looking for.
Cincinnati had been involved in conversations with him for a while. We started seeing the rumors about their interest during the playoffs, way back in late October. We continued to see the rumors until early January that the Reds remained interested. Eventually the Reds fell short in their pursuit of Marcell Ozuna.
There was some confusion from some how Cincinnati wouldn’t have matched, or even tried to beat a 1-year deal reading the comments here at Redleg Nation, or on your social media of choice. When it was reported last night that the organization was still interested in Nicholas Castellanos, I mentioned Marcell Ozuna and the possibility that the Reds were going after him and came up short but that it’s possible they had a better offer out there for him and he chose not to take it and sign with Atlanta instead.
We don’t know exactly how much better the offer the Reds made to Marcell Ozuna was. Technically we don’t really know if it was better. But we do know, thanks to a report from Jon Heyman of MLB Network, that Cincinnati made a multi-year offer to the free agent outfielder and he declined it to sign a 1-year deal.
That kind of begs the question: Why would a player turn down a multi-year deal in favor of a 1-year deal? It could be that the money was similar enough overall, that taking the shorter deal and hoping for a good season leads to a better deal after 2020.
But it could also be something as simple as the teams that made multi-year offers don’t have the perception of winning like Atlanta does. The Braves won 97 games in 2019. The Reds won 75. While there’s plenty of reason to believe that Cincinnati should be significantly better than 75 wins, and reason to believe that Atlanta probably won’t win 97 games again – for some players that kind of stuff matters. And that’s why winning matters, even while trying to rebuild. Because at some point you want to bring in free agents to round out the team, and there’s a chance they’ll look at how you’ve performed recently and take lesser deals because they believe the chance to win elsewhere is going to be a lot better. Last offseason we saw a similar situation when pitcher J.A. Happ reportedly turned down a better offer from Cincinnati to sign in New York.
Losing can work against you. For a player who, in theory took a 1-year deal to try and bet on himself and get a better deal after 2020, turning down a chance to play in a home run friendly ballpark certainly seems strange unless you are looking at a player who is looking to past winning as a reason to choose one over the other.