ATLANTA — The Braves have their clean-up hitter.
Marcell Ozuna, who tormented the Braves in the National League Division Series with St. Louis, signed a one-year, $18 million deal, the team announced Tuesday night. He fills the need for a power hitter in the middle of the lineup.
Ozuna, 29, has spent the past two seasons with the Cardinals after spending his early career in the National League East with Miami. Ozuna hit .241 with 29 homers and a .800 OPS last season (130 games).
He helped the Cardinals win the NL Central and advance to the NL Championship Series, hitting .324 in the postseason. He hit a robust .429 with two homers in the five-game NLDS, where the Cardinals eliminated his new club.
Ozuna has earned two All-Star appearances since debuting in 2013. He’s been a potent bat over that span, hitting 23 or more home runs in each of the past four seasons, including a career-best 37 in 2017. He’s collected 124, 88 and 89 RBIs across the past three seasons, respectively.
The slugger possesses an ideal resume for the Braves, who were dealt a blow when Donaldson, and his 37 homers and 94 RBIs, departed for Minnesota. Ozuna theoretically replaces a large bulk of Donaldson’s production while only requiring a single-season commitment.
While not a highly regarded defender, Ozuna likely plugs into left field. That will directly affect Nick Markakis’ and Adam Duvall’s playing time, given the duo was previously slotted to platoon the position. Ronald Acuna was penciled in right, with Ender Inciarte in left.
The Braves are blessed with versatile outfielders, meaning they’ll have plentiful combinations to deploy. But it’s a safe assumption that Acuna and Ozuna will be in the lineup on a nearly every-day basis.
An added bonus: The Braves don’t block their top outfield prospects, Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. Both players are expected to debut in the majors this season, but neither will be relied upon on the pennant-hopeful Braves.
This article written by Gabriel Burns with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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