QUESTION: Do you think whether the Cardinals re-sign Marcell Ozuna hinges on how he performs over these remaining weeks? Dylan Carlson is coming up fast, but what's the harm in having him serving an "apprenticeship" for a year, then replacing Fowler in right field?
BENFRED: I don't think it's THE determining factor, but it could become one, sure. What you do when it matters most tends to weigh the scale a little differently, right?
I've said all along that a strong Ozuna performance combined with a Cardinals postseason run could change the tune we have picked up from the Cardinals about their willingness to let Ozuna walk -- or more likely offering him a qualifying offer, and happily taking the draft pick when he declined it to pursue a multi-year elsewhere as a free agent,.
We've discussed that situation at length in every chat for a while now. And as Ozuna struggled lately, he was doing the opposite of forcing the Cardinals' hand. Entering Monday's win, Ozuna was batting .113/.214/.258 over his last 60-plus at-bats. That's bad, folks.
But he broke out big time Monday, with his 28th home run and his 21st double, and a great throw from left field. He also tried to climb over the wall to rob a home run. I think it might have been his most complete game as a Cardinal. And, after the game, it sure sounded like manager Mike Shildt wanted to make it crystal clear that everyone -- front office included -- understood what Ozuna means to this lineup, clubhouse, etc.
Then he went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts on Tuesday (though to be fair, the entire lineup struck out 14 times and went 0 for 9 with RISP on Tuesday).
Shildt has not yet openly campaigned for an Ozuna extension, but it sounded like he was forming a campaign on Monday. The Cardinals are always fans of their internal options, but it would be quite bold of them to think they can replicate their OPS leader who ranks second on the team behind Goldschmidt (for now) in HR and RBIs with a player already on this team, or a player who has not yet played in a major league game.