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.

Photo of Marcell Ozuna by Ian D’Andrea. Photo has been modified slightly. License can be found here.

85 Responses

  1. FreeHouse

    Thank you Marcell for not accepting the Reds offer. Now, go get Castellanos.

    • Kenny G

      He’s not going to sign with the Reds either. He released a list of teams he was interested in and Cincinnati was conspicuously absent.

    • Colorado Red

      Dodged a bullet there.
      Yes, 100% agree.

  2. James H.

    That last paragraph throws some cold shade, but rings harshly true. Reds should read that and take note by not resting on their hubris.

    • Doug Gray

      I’m certainly not trying to throw shade, so to speak. I think it’s just the reality of the situation – players want to go to winning teams, and if the money is not drastically different, they are probably going to choose to go to places where they feel they’ve got a better chance to win.

      • Ghettotrout1

        I agree continual losing makes signing free agents extremely hard. I mean obviously by being on this site I’m a pretty hard core Reds fan so its easy to say why didn’t you sign with the Reds. But if you were a baseball player who likely has already made a good amount of money you have zero ties to Cincinnati and there is similar money and by similar I mean within 20% why sign with a potentially worse team.

      • JayTheRed

        Another thing I have thought of is maybe he saw how crowded the OF in Cincy was and was worried about playing time?

        I too think part of him not coming over to us is that the Braves for a long time have a perception of winning. Reds have not had this in quite some time.

      • LWblogger2

        Yes, yes, and unfortunately for the Reds, yes. Honestly think the Reds would have gotten Moose for a fair bit less if they had made bigger strides towards competitiveness last season. If they make strides this season in the standings, signing free-agents after 2020 should be a little easier.

    • Redsvol

      I think Ozuna got some very bad advice. It makes sense for an injured player to take a 1 year prove it deal to rebuild value coming off a poor year but makes no sense when you’re coming off a good – maybe great for him – year. His value is very likely to go down because of several factors – 1 year older, different team, more free agent outfielders, etc..

      If you’re an outfield looking for a 1 yr. deal to hold or improve your value, then Cincinnati is the place to play to pump up your stats.I think Doug is exactly right, the player didn’t want to play in Cincinnati – and for that I am so glad we didn’t sign him.

  3. jim walker

    Very interesting to read that the Reds were in on Ozuna to the end and also appear to still be in on Castellanos.

    Linking with the signing of Akiyama, appearances are that if they can sign Castellanos, a major trade is likely to follow.

    Assuming nothing truly nuclear like a trade involving Eugenio Suarez or retirement of Joey Votto is in the works, such a trade would likely involve Jesse Winker or Nick Senzel being dealt. If they are still looking to upgrade their catching, Tucker Barnhart might be involved too. If they are targeting shortstop, ditto Freddy Galvis.

    These are truly interesting times in contrast to the set piece stand pat we’ve got Jack for that days of Walt Jocketty at the helm.

    • Eric

      Indeed, sir…truly interesting times.

      Listen, kids – Jim and I remember when the front-office thinking was not only different…but radically different. Where some might be enthused by the crack of the bat and cheering October (and now even November!) crowds, the only sound they were looking to hear was…cha-CHING!

      The fact that they were even IN on Ozuna…at ALL…is a major departure. Enjoy it, because something about this, for me, feels like riiiiiiiight about that time when you make that little turn at the beginning of The Beast, and start chik-chik-chik-chik-chik…up that first hill. Wild ride’s a-comin’.

      Or maybe I’m just excited because pitchers and catchers report in 23 days!

      • jim walker

        The behavior of the Reds on and off the field the last 6 years and concurrent rise of the NHL team up I-71 to consistent playoff contender (3 straight/ 4 of 6 years in the postseason) has taken some of the shine off of pitchers and catchers report day for me.

        The proactive approach of the Reds this off season is reviving my interest in PACR however. I am glad for that and already looking forward to the regular season.

  4. Jim m

    If they can convince Castellanos to come to the Reds to play LF, then use Ervin or Winker in a trade with prospects for a SS like Story or Siemen. I doubt Lindor is leavong Cleveland now or Seager is leaving the Dodgers

    • Colorado Red

      Unless they trade Nolan, I doubt Story is leaving CO.
      That would guarantee that Nolan opps out next year.
      Siemen, might look nice.

  5. Alex Whitehead

    Been saying all along, and it doesn’t really even have to do with all the losing, tho that doesn’t help, there is zero evidence to suggest that top tier free agents are interested in the reds no matter the money. They just aren’t and they won’t be. The reds path to winning is producing their own players and savvy trades. The path def isn’t trading away quality young players for one year rentals like they have been. The reds need to settle in, stay the course and produce young players.

    • Doug Gray

      There’s more than one way to build a team. No team on the planet is built without free agent signings or trades – even for short-term guys. The track record for Reds going after actual, real free agents is almost non-existent, so it’s probably unfair to say there’s zero evidence guys aren’t interested in the Reds no matter the money. The number of guys we know of that they actually offered money to is limited to the last two offseasons. And then what? Going back to apparently Albert Pujols a decade ago?

      The Reds, and every other team, should be active in all areas. Development, trades, free agency – ignoring any of those areas puts you behind the curve.

    • Jefferson Green

      While you are right that Cincinnati doesn’t have the marketing and sex-appeal of the big cities, that is probably less of an issue in baseball than in other sports. In MLB a player can live less than 25% of the year (81 games plus a few off days) in his team’s city, while in football it is around 50%. And some players prefer a quieter place with fewer distractions and less negative media presence, so it can occasionally work in reverse.

    • Joey

      Don’t the comments from Moose prove your statement wrong? He made it clear that he wanted to be part of this team, saw what the Reds have been doing to get better and wanted to help take them to the playoffs. Surely, other players around the league are aware that the Reds have great pitching, some good hitters, a ball park that could help pad their stats, and a front office that desperately wants to win and is willing to make the necessary moves to do so.

  6. Ed

    Can someone help me out here- Castellanos and Puig have very similar profiles, but Puig adds base-running and good defense. How is Castellanos an improvement over Puig?

    • Jefferson Green

      Catellanos has been a better hitter, especially last year.
      Castellanos: wRC+ of 121
      Puig: wRC+ of 101
      In terms of defense, Puig is clearly better, but has been regressing and is below average by most metrics, and in GABP (and other small central division ball parks) range produces even less value, so the gain is there, but small. The base running calculus is similar: Puig is much more a threat to steal, but in baseball today very little run-production is created on the bases, so the gain is there, but small. Being a 20% better hitter means significantly more than the defense and base running gains. Hope this helps.

      • greenmtred

        I expect that you’re right, but I do have a question/observation about range. The only range that’s affected by a small park is the ability to go back. The other dimensions are uniform, park to park. Even going back is not straight-forward since a good outfielder could play further in to get to more potential hits, and still need good range to go back.

      • Jefferson Green

        greenmtred, I think it has two dimensions to it. First, going back is the most difficult direction to cover. Second, for every step deeper that you have to play, the field becomes a little wider, meaning there is more to cover side to side. (Mathematically, the field gets about 14 feet wider if an outfielder moves back 10 feet.)

    • VaRedsFan

      If we can convince other teams to just throw him low fastballs, then I’m in on Puig….otherwise no

  7. Josh

    This is a great, sobering perspective. I love the idea of the Reds trying to improve in every facet but it’s a two way street. These guys might not want to come here but the reactions that the FO didn’t try hard enough aren’t always grounded in reality. As far as Castellanos goes, everything I’m hearing in Chicago is that he really wants to go back to the Cubs but they’re trying to shed payroll. So that’s yet another perspective of how the market works that I often don’t think about.

  8. SMKRedsfan

    With all the talk of signing MO or Nick C. and the desire to trade for Lindor or Seager (both 2 yrs left) or moving Senzel or Suárez to shortstop, how about this;
    Reds trade Senzel, India, and Santillian to Colorado for Arenado.
    Suárez moves to shortstop, Arenado covers third ( between Arenado and Suárez they should be able to cover that side of the infield).
    Lineup:
    1) Shogo
    2) Votto
    3) Arenado
    4) Suárez
    5) Moose
    6) Punisher
    7) Winker
    8) Barnhart

    That would be an awesome everyday lineup. (Copied from a dead post)

    • Amarillo

      The most recent report on Arenado said the Rockies will only trade him if it improves their team this year, and they were asking for Flaherty from the Cardinals.

      • Matt WI

        Yup… I suppose it could be negotiation posturing, but it makes sense that it’s getting far to close to Spring Training for Colorado to really consider making big changes and not have enough time to cover gaps.

        Which mostly makes me glad to hear Arenado won’t end up in St. Louis (this year)!

      • vegastypo

        And doesn’t Arenado have a full no-trade clause. Negotiate til your heart’s content, but if he doesn’t wanna go, guess what ???????????

      • LWblogger2

        Yes @Matthew M … But Suarez wasn’t ever considered a good SS and the Tigers and scouts from other teams felt he was more suited to 2B. He was brutal at SS for the Reds. He’s a so-so 3B now. His work at SS came about 25 lbs ago too. He is bigger and seemingly less agile than he was even 3-4 years ago. I have very serious doubt that Suarez could handle SS at the MLB level on a regular basis.

    • Chris Holbert

      I do not think that would get it done, and Suarez is not a SS. Plus, if they are going to have 7/8 years at 30+ mil, they may as well trade for Lindor and pay him the money..

      • Matthew M

        Suarez’s native position was shortstop in the Tigers organization.

    • Mark Moore

      Geno isn’t a SS anymore … that dog won’t hunt in the Queen City.

    • Colorado Red

      Suarez was not good a SS before,
      He has bulked up.
      Not going to work.

      • Indy Red Man

        Suarez will never be close to the size of Arod, Tulowitski, or Ripken. It solves a problem!

      • JoshG

        suarez looks like he is already bigger (bulkier) than all three of them

    • Kevin F Patrick

      I thought I was the only guy silly enough to think of this. What an incredible team of 3rd basemen the Reds would be. I’m just trying to think of what the Rockies would want from the Reds that they would be willing to give up. Assuming they would want controllable pitching, that would help them this year…its going to be tough to imagine being a better Reds team without Gray or Castillo. The other Reds starters aren’t controllable for long enough. I wonder whether they would bite on Mahle, Lodolo, and Aquino. N. Arenado seems pretty unhappy right now… might be easier to just ship him out and be done with it.

      • Colorado Red

        Has a full no trade clause.
        Nolan can reject any trade he wants.

      • Matt WI

        Beyond the No Trade, he has an opt out after two years. They’d better be dang sure they can keep him when that option comes up for what they’d have to give up. Not worth the risk. Which is why I’m sure Colorado is having trouble passing a deal unless Arenado and his agent basically can say he’ll stay on the new team… which would be silly of them.

    • JayTheRed

      If that magic happened… I’d go buy tickets to see every game in Milwaukee immediately, since that is my closest NL Stadium to see the Reds in.

      Heck might make a trip down to Ole’ Cincy during the summer too.

      • Matt WI

        I’m gonna have a lot of trouble switching my thinking over to going to games at American Family Park in Milwaukee. Dang you Miller, how did you screw that up!?

    • greenmtred

      In your scenario–Suarez moving to short–I’m wondering who will cover shortstop defensively?

      • SMKRedsfan

        Arenado has a wider coverage zone than most 3rd basemen. With him at 3rd, the shortstop would have a little less area to cover. With that happening Suarez can cover the shortstop position. Last year, the Reds put a lot of shifts on with Suarez covering the entire side. I’m shore the Reds have enough defensive schemes that his and Arenado’s offensive production would offset the rest.

  9. Jackson Latta

    Well, not just winning and losing. But I think any player can look at the Reds outfield and think, “maybe that’s quagmire I don’t want to dive into.” The only reason they can possibly be hoarding outfielders like this is if they think they are gonna trade some. Well… make the trade, and then try to lure in fresh faces. No one wants to split time with three guys in right field. Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.

    • jim walker

      I see it as a which came first, chicken or egg, type situation.

      The Reds are probably content going into the season with the OF guys they have now. On the other hand, they see talent available in the free agent market they believe could make them better.

      Signing one or more of these FA guys would displace a similar number of current players who now figure to be everyday players.

      However they can’t trade the current guys that would be displaced by the FA signings until/ unless they actually sign those guys.

  10. Lars Benders

    There is a simpler explanation: perhaps the Reds multiyear offer was at a significantly lower AAV than 18 million.

    • Sean D

      Obviously it was probably somewhere around 14 mil a year if that. Still it’s surprising to see someone like him go with a 1 year deal

  11. Say it ain’t so dave

    20 per cent offense per quality defense,doesn’t explain the difference between Puig and and Constantinople.Puig would take on anyone in defense of his team,brothers.Puig was happy in Cincinnati as he was in Cleveland.Everyone walks a little taller with such a teammate.And it sure makes games with Pittsburgh worth the whole season. With Garrett I will take you all on ,and Puig who will never stop fighting for you till the bitter end.

  12. RedNat

    Coaching coaching coaching! We ha ve gotten the pitching because of Johnson. Bell just isn’t going to attract the big names.. if we had Larkin as our manager we would have Didi, grandal and Ozuna right now.

    • Sean D

      Maybe but if we had Larkin as the manager I don’t think this team is as good. I don’t trust Larkin as a manager and the reds certainly don’t either.

      • JayTheRed

        Here is to hoping Bell is a better manager of the rotation and bullpen this year. I’m giving him a 2nd chance as a manager. All the other aspects of how he managed I was fine with.

      • vegastypo

        Here is to hoping Bell actually stays in some games, rather than getting tossed.

    • Michael Smith

      Ha, so Didi was not going to play for his old Manager and Grandal was going to pass 9m being able to DH as he ages just to play for Barry. I love a vivid imagination

  13. donny

    Also you may add that Marcell Ozuna didn’t hit as well against the NL Central . He might have wanted to go back to the National League East for that reason also .

  14. Mark Moore

    Who knows why Ozuna chose one over multiple … but that’s what he did. It’s a gamble on his part as any player is only one injury or bad season away from oblivion.

    I’d still like to see a solid SS trade, but if not we move forward with hope for a bright 2020! Let’s have us a 30-year wire-to-wire celebration come October.

    • JayTheRed

      If the 49ers win the Super Bowl we have to win the World Series cause that’s what happened last time. Though the Reds won first that time.

  15. Streamer88

    I wouldn’t read into it too much. Those people whispering in the corner aren’t talking about you, they’re talking about themselves.

    The truth is probably more like the Reds offered 3/36 and Ozuna thinks he’ll make more over the next 3 years.

    End of story.

  16. AllTheHype

    Ozuna’s decision to sign a one year was probably for two reasons.

    One, the loss of draft pick attached to him. A one year pillow contract enables him to re-enter the market next year without the possibility of a qualifying offer and the resulting draft pick issue.

    Two, he had a down year by his standards, and figures a bounce back year with no QO puts him in prime position next offseason.

  17. vegastypo

    I tend to be a little skeptical about stuff that comes from Jon Heyman. I’m sure it’s possible that Castellanos signs with the Reds, but a lot of this is coming from Heyman, who has long come across as a bit of a mouthpiece for Boras. And Boras is Castellanos’ agent.

  18. Redleg Bob

    I’m with you, Ed and Say It Ain’t So. I would take Puig – easy choice. Will never understand why there was no thought of bringing either him or Iglesias back.

    Puig – can hit for power, good defense, great arm, good speed, badass, great teammate

    Iglesias – great defense, clutch hitter, good two-strike hitter, knack for big hits, great teammate

    • Joseph K Woycke

      Agree with you there I loved both of those guys I think the front office didn’t like the trouble Puig brought. Unlike us fans we love to see our guys go to war for each other but front office doesn’t want guys that are trouble

    • Jefferson Green

      I liked Puig too, but I can’t argue with the Reds not re-signing him.
      Puig was a league average hitter last year, which doesn’t cut it in a corner outfielder, and he is below average as a fielder, to boot. Even if you don’t believe these metrics, the Reds got more production from Aquino that they got from Puig, and he has more upside. And they signed a Japanese All Star who can help out in right field, as well.

      As for Iglesias, the calculus would have been different if they didn’t have Galvis. Galvis is an excellent fielder, as well, rating even higher in the new Outs Above Average measure than Iglesias. They are essentially the same value as hitters, with Galvis offsetting his lower average with more walks and a lot more power. Again, I liked watching Iggy play, but I’m fine with Galvis. And the fact that Jose had to settle for a $3 million deal with the horrendous Orioles tells us that the rest of the league didn’t value him highly, either.

  19. Redleg Bob

    Senzel and Lodolo are off limits for me in any trade. But I’m afraid one or both are probably gone soon. They are both going to be studs quickly – just hope it’s with the Reds.

    • JayTheRed

      I have a really good feeling about Lodolo and I don’t think it’s going to take very long either.

  20. Tv

    He was never going to sign. He knows they still seem to want this 4 to 5 man outfield. He would be killing his value. Bell is destroying this team. All the moves wont do any good unless u dump price #2

    • LWblogger2

      Yes, it’s all Bell’s fault… Really? You get the horses out there and Bell will play the best 3. If Ozuna stayed healthy and productive, he would have gotten 550 or more PA with the Reds.

  21. Lawrence Turner

    Reds need a shortstop. Glavis will likely miss many games due to injury. He is OK when healthy, but fragile. Jordy Mercer would fit, as would Addison Russell. Senzel might be a shortstop and let Lorenzen take over in center and also be the closer, mister ninth inning all the way. Trade Iglesis for a catcher and bench Votto who is washed up now.

    • BK

      From 2015 through 2019 Galvis played 151, 158, 162, 162, and 147 respectively. In fact, not a single trip to the DL/IL. On what basis are you stating he’ll “miss many games due to injury”?

      An upgrade at SS would be great. A bench player that upgrades the bench AND can play SS would be another solid addition.

    • LWblogger2

      Right (Reds probably could use a SS upgrade). Wrong (Galvis has generally been very healthy). Wrong (Mercer isn’t very good offensively or defensively). Wrong (Russell’s character is in extreme question and I’d need to have a discussion with my players about bringing him into the clubhouse). Wrong (Senzel isn’t a SS). Wrong (Lorenzen isn’t an everyday CF nor is he a closer and when would he theoretically warm up to go from CF to taking the mound?). Wrong (What catcher does Iglesias bring back that is a big upgrade over what we have?). TBD (Are you sure Joey is done? Is it possible he is one of thos HoF type guys that puts up an unlikely above-average season or 2 past the age of 35?)

  22. CFD3000

    If the Reds really wanted to sign Ozuna and couldn’t, that’s disappointing. Perhaps the front office will learn that a few extra million can make the difference between getting your man, and not. But in this particular instance I’m glad it didn’t work out. I’d much rather have Winker or Senzel in my outfield than Ozuna, and we may also look back and say “thank goodness they kept Aquino”. I think they dodged a bullet on Ozuna.

  23. Terry Diener

    If Castellanos doesn’t come to the Reds, are there any “under the radar” bats still out there as free agents? Do they look for a possible trade, look to see who might be let go in Spring Training by another team, or just go with the players they have assembled?

  24. D Ray White

    The Reds and Braves entered the time period where a rebuild was necessary at about the same time. It’s safe to say that the Braves FO performed significantly better than the Reds FO, illegal international signings notwithstanding. Castellini’s unwillingness to turn over the roster and start anew put the Reds 2-3 seasons behind teams like the Braves. Ozuna’s decision (personally did not want him) was another data point in the divergence of both organizations. Here’s to hoping Big Bob, Dick, and Nick learned from their mistakes…

    • Jefferson Green

      You are right that the unwillingness to turn over the roster set this team back badly, but Dick and Nick were not making those decisions and definitely have made better decisions recently than the previous regime.

      • D Ray White

        True that. It was a Big Bob and Walt show.

  25. jim walker

    This is a long thread; so, if I missed the following thought above, apologies.

    In talking about Puig, has anyone considered that in Aristides Aquino, the Reds a younger/ cheaper guy whose floor is almost certainly Puig’s projected production and ceiling is greater?

    • greenmtred

      Jim, I generally agree with and always respect your comments. But I can’t agree with you about Aquino’s floor: He might just as easily be the September Aquino as some version of the August one. He’s an unknown at this point.

    • AllTheHype

      Aquino’s floor is definitely NOT Puig’s expected production. That might be his ceiling.

      He had a nice run for one month for the Reds. But he still owns a pathetic career slash line in the minors including .248 BA and only .308 OBP. If his minor league numbers eventually translate to MLB which I think can be reasonably expected, he won’t be a MLB player for long. Wily Mo Aquino will fizzle out faster than the real Wily Mo.

      • LWblogger2

        Possible, but may I point out that Wily Mo Pena never had a month anything like Aquino’s August? In fact, he never had a season really as good as Aquino’s if you look at what he did in MLB last year. I’m not high in Aquino either but the ceiling is still pretty high even if I agree the floor is darn low.

  26. Not Joe Nuxhall

    I remember the days when it was an honor to play on the first professional team in baseball. What an embarrassment to us fans who grew up with the Big Red Machine. Shameful for a team so rich in history….

    • Jefferson Green

      ‘Shameful’ that the Reds opted to not outbid another team on Marcel Ozuna? He’s not Joe Morgan nor Johnny Bench; he’s just a rather good, but inconsistent outfielder with a recent track record of under-performance (and showing up to Spring Training in his walk year way out of shape). No way you overpay that guy, and in general, you only sign him if it’s a clearly good value.

  27. Say it ain’t so

    Jim you are correct as always,but Aristides is already a part of the book,we all throw out additions to helpfully add to the book.Puig is really nothing more then an example,of what makes a baseball team,which is more then money,more than war avg,more then analytics. It’s ?.

  28. Indy Red Man

    One thing people are taking into account is Aquino (or Puig’s) arm in RF! If a RF gets the ball off the wall on the west coast then the best they can do is hit the cutoff man, but its a diff story in a bandbox like GABP! Look how many times guys had to hold at 3B on a medium flyball to Puig. Its a big advantage to have a big armed RF in GABP!

  29. Daytonian

    From today (1/26) from George Miller, as summarized by MLB Trade Rumors:

    Report: Reds “Clear Frontrunners” To Sign Nicholas Castellanos