Marcell Ozuna is an option for the Red Sox to consider in free agency.
Marcell Ozuna will be among the top position players in this year’s crop of free agents. If he wasn’t already on the radar of the Boston Red Sox, he certainly is now after the damage he did at Fenway Park.
Ozuna, who has spent his entire eight-year career in the National League, had never played a game at Fenway Park until his Atalanta Braves came to town for a three game series this week. It didn’t take long for him to realize how much he enjoys hitting in this ballpark.
In three games at Fenway, Ozuna went 6-for-14 (.429) with a double, four home runs and eight RBI.
A 10-run explosion by the Braves in Tuesday’s victory over the Red Sox was led by Ozuna’s three home runs. He put Atlanta on the board in the first inning with a two-run homer and extended the lead with a solo shot in the seventh inning. His three-run blast in the eighth was the final nail in the coffin that put the game out of reach.
Ozuna earned himself a piece of history when teammate Adam Duvall bashed three home runs against Red Sox pitchers the following night. Per Elias, the Braves are the first team in MLB history to have players hit 3+ home runs in consecutive games.
Ozuna wasn’t done with his power surge though, connecting on a solo shot in the seventh inning that gave Atlanta the lead to cap off the three-game sweep.
All four of Ozuna’s home runs were crushed over 400 feet. Unsurprising for a player who ranks in the top 9% of the league with a 52.0 Hard Hit% and top 8% with a 92.8 mph exit velocity, per Statcast.
Three of the four home runs were mammoth shots over the towering green wall in left field. Ozuna is among the league’s most pull-heavy hitters with a 50.0 Pull% this season so the Green Monster makes for easy target practice for his right-handed bat.
Obviously, Ozuna wouldn’t have the benefit of facing the 2020 Red Sox pitching staff every game if he signed here but it’s clear that his swing is a good fit for Fenway.
The Red Sox might have an opening in the outfield if Jackie Bradley Jr. leaves in free agency. Ozuna would be a clear upgrade, at least from an offensive standpoint, if Boston is willing to shell out the money.
He hasn’t played center field in years and would be a liability in that spot at this stage of his career so Ozuna may not be a perfect replacement for Bradley Jr. Ozuna served as the DH in all three games of this series at Fenway so we never got the opportunity to see how he would handle the quirky corners in right field or play the ball off the left field wall. He should be capable of providing serviceable defense at a corner outfield spot while Alex Verdugo or Andrew Benintendi could slide over to center field. The Red Sox would be losing quite a bit defensively with that outfield shuffling but that’s likely to be the case anyway if they intend to let Bradley Jr. walk away.
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Fresh off resetting the luxury tax penalties, Boston should have a more flexible budget this offseason. Pitching is the obvious priority – someone who can keep the ball in the park against sluggers like Ozuna would be nice. This year’s free-agent class isn’t exactly overflowing with desirable arms though so the Red Sox can’t necessarily rely on opening their wallets to fix their rotation problems.
The pitching will undoubtedly improve with Eduardo Rodriguez back in the fold and Chris Sale eventually joining him next season. Upgrading the middle of the rotation is the probable route if Boston plans to address the need in free agency, in which case any big ticket purchase might be reserved for upgrading a weak spot in the lineup.
Ozuna won’t come cheap if he continues the torrid pace he’s on this season. He’s currently hitting .301/.390/.624 with 12 homers and 31 RBI in 36 games. Obliterating Red Sox pitching boosted those numbers a bit but he was already swinging a hot bat before visiting Boston and doesn’t appear likely to cool off much in a contract year.
He isn’t the solution to their biggest problem but Ozuna is a talented player who could improve this club. The Red Sox probably won’t make him their top priority this winter but after witnessing the damage he did in their ballpark over these last few games, you can excuse them for salivating over what he could do in the middle of their lineup. What Boston is willing to spend on position players will depend on their approach to fixing the pitching staff but if there is room in the budget for a big bat, Ozuna is an option to put on the radar.