Revisiting the Marcell Ozuna Trade: Five Years Later

Marcell Ozuna of the St. Louis Cardinals

During the 2017-18 offseason, the Miami Marlins dealt three star outfielders out of town to kick off a massive deal. While two of the deals netted less-than-stellar returns, the trade that sent Marcell Ozuna to St. Louis proved to be the most fruitful five years later. Here’s a closer look at the deal.

Related: Revisiting the Christian Yelich Trade: Five Years Later

What the Cardinals Got

At the time, the deal seemed like a no-brainer for the Cardinals. One year earlier, St. Louis won 83 games and failed to make the playoffs despite breakout performances from Paul DeJong and Tommy Pham & a deep rotation that included youngsters Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Luke Weaver. The addition of a bat like Ozuna, who hit 37 home runs in 2017 with the Marlins, would give the Cards a dangerous power hitter that could help put St. Louis over the top in a competitive NL Central division.

In his first season with the Cardinals. Ozuna hit a respectable .280/.325/.433 with 23 home runs and 88 runs batted in. Ozuna meshed in well with a lineup that included Matt Carpenter — who hit 31 home runs in 2018 — and Harrison Bader, among others. However, the Cardinals failed to vault past the Brewers and Cubs in the NL Central and finished third in the division yet again.

The following season, Ozuna hit 29 home runs for the Cardinals, who added superstar first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to its lineup after the 2018 campaign. St. Louis did make it back to the playoffs in 2019, but were swept in the NLCS by the eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals.

Over his two seasons in St. Louis, Ozuna posted a bWAR of 4.7. Ozuna woulde depart in free agency and join the Braves on a one-year deal. The move proved to be brilliant, as Ozuna led the NL in home runs (18) and RBI (56) in 2020 and parlayed that season into a multi-year deal with Atlanta.

Since then, Ozuna’s proved to be his own worst enemy. The 32-year-old was arrested and suspended in 2021 due to a domestic violence dispute, and has yet to find his 2020 stroke at the plate. In his first 63 at-bats in 2023, Ozuna hit just .073 for the Braves.

What the Marlins Got

Out of the trio of marquee deals that Marlins made in the 2017-18 offseason, this one proved to be by far the best. Miami picked up three right-handers and a outfield prospect in Magneuris Sierra.

Sierra was touted as a very talented athlete in the Minors, but hasn’t had much success in the Majors. The 27-year-old spent parts of five seasons (2018-22) in the Majors after the deal between Miami and the Angels, but didn’t find much success at the plate. Over his first 636 PA at the MLB level, Sierra hit .228/.273/.272 with no home runs and just six extra base hits.

As far as Castano, the former Baylor product carved out a nice role as a depth arm for the Marlins. The 28-year-old, who never had plus stuff but does own good command, started 17 games between 2020-22 with Miami and posted respectable ERA figures along the way.

However, the two keys to this deal were the pickups of Alcantara and Gallen. Alcantara vaulted his way up shortly after the deal and has turned into of the game’s best pitchers. At his best, the right-hander boasts an elite sinker to go along with arguably the best changeup in the game and an above-average slider that’s an out pitch against right-handed hitters. Alcantara’s strong 2022 season netted him the NL Cy Young award.

Gallen, meanwhile, has also turned into an ace. The former UNC star made his Major League debut with the Fish in 2019, but was dealt at the 2019 Trade Deadline to Arizona for Jazz Chisholm Jr. The deal seemed a bit odd at first, but it made sense given the Marlins’ pitching depth in the farm system and lack of valuable hitting prospects.

Chisholm Jr. received his first NL All-Star nomination in 2022, while Gallen has become an elite pitcher for the D-Backs. Gallen’s best season came in 2022, when he struck out 192 over 184 innings and posted an ERA of 2.54. That season earned Gallen a fifth-place finish in the NL Cy Young award vote.

The Cardinals received too solid seasons from Ozuna, but this deal was ultimately won by the Marlins. Miami received two frontline starters — one of which was deal for a talented bat — that look to be part forces to be reckoned with for the next decade.

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