Mass amounts of excitement overwhelmed us after the Cardinals acquired Marcell Ozuna last offseason. The Front Office’s attempts to bring Giancarlo Stanton to St. Louis were nearly successful, but the script was quickly flipped when the trade was rejected by Stanton. Fans were again disappointed, but then the light started to shine on Busch Stadium when the Ozuna trade came to fruition.
Thirteen months later, here we are. A disappointing finish to a season. A season which started with Tommy Pham in center field that bottomed out with the firing of Mike Matheny. Later the season rebounded with an explosive August that showcased our rookie depth that ended with us once again out of the playoffs.
Light shines on Busch Stadium again, this time with roster changes that include top tier first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and veteran reliever Andrew Miller. Both have stated that they are hungry for a World Series title. They also believe that it can happen here in St. Louis.
Now we are here asking, what went wrong last season? There really isn’t one simple answer, and there isn’t just one player to blame. The team simply did not play good enough baseball throughout entirety of the season. There is one player, however that needs to be highlighted here. He could be the one who will make or break this 2019 lineup. Marcell Ozuna needs to be the player he was in Miami during the 2017 season.
So, what is the cause for anxiety? Ozuna underwent a cleanup procedure to correct a shoulder issue in October. This was a noticeable issue to many spectators last year. His performance dropping significantly and affecting him both at the plate and in defensively left field. Simply put, he wasn’t the player we were all hoping for.
He wasn’t that bad, was he?
Marcell’s poor performance may have been overshadowed by a few things. Carpenters early struggles seemed to be a team trend that included Ozuna and Fowler. Fowler never really recovered. Ozuna was having mechanical errors, as well as possibly battling his infamous shoulder injury. Despite this and the glaring coaching issues, Ozuna finished as arguably one of the Cardinals better offensive players. His underachievement a notable point at the seasons close, is now potentially a huge problem.
Looking forward to the 2019 season, we now have to worry about more than just underperforming. Ozuna’s rehab seems like it may be a little behind schedule. John Mozeliak seemed frustrated speaking about it at the Winter Warm Up recently. Ozuna has been spending the offseason in the Dominican Republic with his family, and at the time of the surgery had promised to be ready for spring training. That outcome now seems to be in question. There are mixed reports that said he will be ready for opening day, a month behind what his original intent. That is also assuming that he is ready to go at that point, possibly not even 100%.
Ozuna has shared videos and pictures of him at a workout facility in the DR to his social media. This is a better sign, but it still leaves many of us worried. Will he be back for Spring Training in less than a month? Is he going to be healthy for opening day? Will he be that third place power bat we have been searching for? Is the Cardinals outfield going to be strong enough to compete in the division? Will there be another last minute signing like Holland was last year? Does this make Bryce Harper a target?
It is in the organization’s best interest for Fowler to have a massive bounce back season. He’s not worth much as a trade piece and is too expensive to just let go. This leaves us carrying two huge question marks into the season.The outfield situation as of now causes a lot of nervousness.
John Mozeliak is clearly frustrated with Ozuna. We can only hope that he is back to his 2017 form as the season takes off. Hopefully the shoulder is healthy, and the coaching staff gets him back on track. He is entering free agency at the end of the season, hopefully that also fuels his fire.
If both Ozuna and Fowler underperform again in 2019 the what if scenarios will certainly make their rounds. What if Bryce Harper was a bigger offseason target? What if Stanton had accepted the trade? What if Yelich was on the table instead of Ozuna? Could Tommy Pham still be worth having around? Piscotty?
But, there is hope as well
The Cardinals do also have Tyler O’Neil and Adolis Garcia waiting with the potential to break out. Jose Martinez looks like he will also be here on opening day, and is better defensively in right field than he was at first. There are also good free agents still available, and the closer to opening day we get, the easier they should be to sign. As of today, AJ Pollock is off the table.
If Ozuna isn’t healthy, it is likely that many fans may criticize the front office more heavily for being all in on Stanton, but not on Harper. Ultimately only time will tell. As of now, we all can only hope that both Fowler and Ozuna greatly improve this season.