ESPN: St. Louis Cardinals may be interested in Marlins CF Marcell Ozuna

Marcell Ozuna has been singled out as a potential trade target of the St. Louis Cardinals by ESPN’s Mark Saxon.

A centerfielder with power, there is a lot to like about Ozuna.

He’s controllable and young. Ozuna turned 26 this month and is in his first year of arbitration eligibility. He’s hit 23 home runs in two of his three full seasons in the big leagues. In 2016 he was selected to the major league All-Star Game for the first time.

The negative: Ozuna strikes out a lot more often than he walks. In 2016 he whiffed 115 times in 557 at-bats. That’s certainly not great. But it’s not completely outrageous for a full season in a free-swinging era of America’s pastime. The thing that raises eyebrows is the fact that he only took 40 bases on balls. He has a fair .265 career batting average but only a .314 on-base percentage. He also doesn’t do much to add some much-desired speed to the St. Louis roster. Ozuna has stolen two bases in six attempts over the past two seasons.

Characterized as an “above average” defensive player, Ozuna’s offensive struggles landed him back in the minors for a brief stay in 2015.

Could Ozuna learn to be more selective at the plate? That’s an important question because if he can, he could become a star. But if he doesn’t, he’s doomed to be a late order hitter.

Whether or not I like the potential addition of Ozuna depends entirely on what the Cardinals would have to pay in terms of talent for him — and also on what else the Redbirds do to fortify a team that finished a distant second in the National League Central Division race in 2016.

If the Cardinals are thinking about offering Jaime Garcia or possibly even damaged starter Michael Wacha straight up for Ozuna, great. Throw in Matt Adams. I can live with that. The Marlins were hurting for starting pitching before their ace, Jose Fernandez was killed in a tragic late-season boat crash, asking for TWO starting pitchers for him in talks at the 2015 trade deadline. With their pitching depth, the Cardinals could potentially give up BOTH Wacha and Garcia or one of them and Luke Weaver. But if a deal involves giving up a top prospect like Alex Reyes or outfielder Harrison Bader, that seems like too much for the Cardinals to invest when they could keep their talent and sign free agent Dexter Fowler.

While Ozuna seems like it could be a useful piece, I’m not sure he’s ready to be the anchor in the middle of the St. Louis batting order. So if the Birds added him and then declared themselves ready for spring training I’d be pretty disappointed.

But… if the Cardinals saved money by adding Ozuna instead of a more expensive centerfielder and then went all in on a cleanup hitter who could play third base or first, the entire body of off-season work might be pretty good.

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