The minute that new St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna landed, the biggest question among Cardinal Nation was simple: What does Ozuna truly offer to the Birds, past a simple scan of his Baseball Reference and Fangraphs page?
In order to get that kind of insight, I asked Miami Marlins reporter and National Sports Radio Host Craig Mish about the 26 year old left fielder. After all, Mish was in on the Giancarlo Stanton news from get go and was the one who officially broke the "Ozuna to St. Louis" news on Twitter.
So, pour a fresh cup of coffee, ease up, and get to know Ozuna through a guy who has covered him for years.
Buffa: Describe the Ozuna effect to fans here who may know him as well as you do?
Mish: He was one of the most fan friendly players in Miami, signing autographs before every game and doing every media interview. He was always available, speaking in English as well as Spanish. I've likened him to Manny Rameriz. He makes the game more fun to watch and while there may be some moments where you scratch your head, in the end, it's going to be a fun ride.
Buffa: He seems like a guy who just loves to play the game and it grows on other players.
Mish: He's the kind of guy who makes friends pretty easily. I've never heard anything negative about him. I mean, this is a guy who is a back-to-back All Star and will climb up the wall in left field to make a catch. His defense is good. It was a career year for him in 2017, so you do think about that, but I still think he will be a great middle of the lineup bat for the Cardinals and an All Star again.
Buffa: It's a perfect situation for player and team. Ozuna has two years left before a new deal has to be negotiated, so it gives each party some motivation.
Mish: The other thing Ozuna will experience-which he experienced on the road, but now will at home-is how many fans will be cheering for him every game. He will rise to the occasion. He did turn down an extension in house (with Miami), but you get him for two years here, make him feel at home, and when he hits free agency, he re-signs.
Buffa: Ozuna has that unique combination of power, defense, and overall athletic ability. To me, he is what every Cardinals fan wants Randal Grichuk to be.
Mish: I think Grichuk has a very high strikeout rate, which has helped him go into these funks. Two years in a row. A couple years ago, Ozuna was caught in a 1-35 stretch, and the Marlins sent him to the minors, which shocked everybody. And some people thought it was due to him not signing a long term extension, which is how it was reported. Look, I can't speak to Grichuk because I didn't watch him every day like I did Ozuna. But Ozuna is going to get on base more and he has had some very big moments with runners on base for Miami. I'm not even sure Grichuk has a role right now with the Cardinals.
Buffa: When it comes to Ozuna's defense, what is his greatest attribute out there? Is it the arm or does he have good range? What makes him a plus defender?
Mish: I wouldn't say he has a super best arm of all time, but he's very accurate. I've seen him throw out guys on sacrifice flies. He's pretty reckless out there in left, though. He will jump and dive for balls, even throwing up his glove at a baseball one time. That's who he is. A quirky player. He definitely gets after it out there and he's not afraid to lay himself out there. I will say he has a plus arm, but the key to him is the accuracy. He's very accurate throwing to home.
Buffa: Do you think he slots in at fourth in this Cardinals lineup?
Mish: If they don't acquire anyone else, I think third or fourth is the spot for him. He's batted behind Stanton and Justin Bour in the Marlins lineup. Right now, it's fair to say he is their best power hitter, so I would say 3 or 4 for him right now.
Buffa: When a big trade like this happens, I also think about the effect that a guy like Ozuna will have on other players. Is that true or is there something more to him?
Mish: Ozuna is not going to lead the team. I don't think he will make other players better. But what he does do is give you the fun guy in the clubhouse. And it's not forced, like the Cardinals did last year with Dexter Fowler and the bus rides and such. You could sense it wasn't working. Fowler is a phenomenal guy and a very good player, but that was too much pressure on him. Ozuna is the fun guy. He will make the team more fun, but as far as being a leader, I'm not sure about that.
Talking to Mish about Ozuna makes me extremely excited to see him in St. Louis for two (or more) years. My hesitation with the player does revolve around his monstrous season mixed with other decent ones, but perhaps he does strike a balance between his 2016 and 2017 seasons. He is going to be an exciting player to watch and should take some of the pressure off Fowler in the clubhouse joker department.
Take this away from the Mish chat: Ozuna is something the Cardinals didn't have in 2017, and that is a positive to stand on going into 2018.
Thank you for reading and you can find me on Twitter @buffa82.