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NL East Notes: Ozuna, Braves, Mets, La Russa, Nationals, Phillies

Marcell Ozuna is unsurprisingly drawing a lot of early attention in free agency, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link) reports that the Braves and at least nine other teams have already shown interest in the slugger.  The list of suitors includes teams from both the National and American League, despite uncertainty about whether or not the DH will be available to NL teams next season.  Of course, Ozuna isn’t yet a full-time designated hitter at this point in his career, as he played 21 of his 60 games as a corner outfielder in 2020, but teams would undoubtedly prefer the security blanket of a DH spot for Ozuna over the course of a multi-year deal.

Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos has mostly preferred to invest in pricey one-year contracts for veteran players (including Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, and Ozuna himself) in free agency, though Atlanta signed Will Smith to a three-year, $39MM deal last offseason.  Ozuna’s next deal might be worth almost twice as much as it took to land Smith, but considering how Atlanta expects to be contending for the World Series, making the big investment to re-sign Ozuna might be deemed as worthwhile from the Braves’ perspective.

Some more from around the NL East…

  • The White Sox hiring Tony La Russa as their next manager was a controversial hire for many reasons, including the fact that La Russa hasn’t managed a big league game since 2011.  However, La Russa did receive consideration for a managerial opening just last winter, as Jon Heyman (in a radio interview on WFAN’s Moose and Maggie show) said the Mets interviewed La Russa about potentially replacing Mickey Callaway.  “Nothing came of” the talks and La Russa wasn’t extended an offer, as the Mets went to hire Carlos Beltran.
  • The Nationals seem likely to take a “middle of the pack” approach to spending this winter, The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli opines, operating as neither “big spenders or big savers” in the wake of revenue losses from the 2020 season.  Washington has over $161MM in projected payroll for the 2021 campaign, and though a lot of that is scheduled to come off the books next winter (most notably Max Scherzer’s salary), one would imagine the Nats might want to earmark some of those savings for possible extensions for Trea Turner and Juan Soto.  Ghiroli feels the Nationals will be active in free agency to some degree but doesn’t expect any splashy signings.
  • The Phillies are in their second round of interviews as they search for a new pitching coach, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury writes.  There isn’t much known about the Phils’ search thus far, though Salisbury lists three of the candidates who were interviewed in the first round — two internal names in assistant pitching coach Dave Lundquist and minor league pitching coordinator Rafael Chaves, plus one name from outside the organization in Reds assistant pitching coach and director of pitching Caleb Cotham.  It isn’t known if any of Lundquist, Chaves, or Cotham advanced to the second-interview stage.
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