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Braves on verge of making major mistake for 2023 season

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Marcell Ozuna, Braves (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Marcell Ozuna, Braves (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Atlanta Braves are on the verge of royally screwing up with a player they should have cut ties with long ago.

The Atlanta Braves have made some really incredible cost-saving moves by developing talent in-house and signing them to long, affordable contracts.

Based on Spotrac’s true value statistic, Atlanta had four players in the top 60 in TVS last year and has a substantial part of their young core on quality deals:

  • Austin Riley with team control through 2032
  • Matt Olson with team control through 2029
  • Ronald Acuna Jr. with team control through 2027
  • Spencer Strider with team control through 2029
  • Ozzie Albies with team control through 2026

All of those but Olson were acquired via the Amateur Draft of Amateur Free Agency, they’re truly homegrown stars. They’re all relatively affordable, with the AAV of those contracts ranging as low as $8 million up to $22 million.

Among these savvy moves, one sticks out like a sore thumb: Marcell Ozuna. The Braves gave him a four-year deal worth $65 million ($16.25 AAV) in 2021 with $18 million owed in 2023 and 2024.

He has not lived up to expectations with a ghastly 9.28 TVS (100 is the max, 0 is the lowest) in 2022. For comparison’s sake, Austin Riley was a 98.56, Michael Harris a 98.07, and Dansby Swanson an 86.44 last season.

It looks like the Braves have not lost hope in Ozuna, which could turn out to be a big waste of resources.

Braves think Ozuna can turn things around

For as great as the Braves have been finding affordable value, they can undo it all if they put too much faith in Ozuna turning things around. It looks like they’re moving in that direction.

The Braves believe Marcell Ozuna could have a bounce-back 2023 season. There are a few reasons why.

If that’s the case, he might have a chance to finally live up to the contract they gave him. https://t.co/UcE3yStTpn

— Justin Toscano (@JustinCToscano) November 30, 2022

At the time, the Ozuna contract made some sense. He had put up an OPS of 1.07 in 2020 and finished sixth in MVP voting while winning a Silver Slugger award. But once he got that bag, it all fell off. His OPS in the following two years was 0.645 and 0.687. He batted 56 RBI this year, which matched what he did in just about half the total plate appearances in 2020.

Beyond the poor on-field play, Ozuna has been a distraction off the field, getting arrested twice since signing the big contract, including a DUI in mid-August of this year.

The Braves have sunk costs on Ozuna, but does that justify sinking even more resources to try to turn his career around?

Sometimes it’s right to give the squeaky wheel some grease, but other times you need to know when it’s time to just get a new wheel.

Unfortunately, aside from simply benching him, there aren’t a ton of options. The Braves tried to trade him already and voiding his contract is a pipe dream.

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