St. Louis Cardinals

Cardinals avoid arbitration with raises to Ozuna, Wacha and Leone

Just hours ahead of the arbitration deadline, the St. Louis Cardinals came to contract terms with three-players who otherwise would have qualified for a hearing to determine their value.

Right-handed pitcher Michael Wacha, whose 2018 was abbreviated by a muscle strain on his left side, was given a $1.06 million raise. to $6.3 million for the coming year. That pales in comparison to a $3.25 million raise to outfielder Marcel Ozuna.

Right-handed reliever Dominic Leone was the other player to sign a one-year contract.

No other Cardinals players were arbitration eligible. The Cardinals did not release financial terms of the deals, but were reported by Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

St. Louis acquired Ozuna in a December 2017 trade anticipating he’d be due a sizable arbitration settlement. The new contract will pay him $12.25 million in 2019.

Ozuna, 28, battled inflammation in his throwing shoulder, but kept himself off the disabled list taking off a week in August. In the meantime, he batted .280 with 23 home runs, a team-leading 88 RBIs and led major league left fielders with 1,283 innings.

Ozuna, who finished runner-up to Miami Marlins teammate Giancarlo Stanton in voting for the 2017 National League MVP, will be a free agent at the end of the coming season.

Wacha, 27, was 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA in 15 starts before the injury to his oblique. It was shaping up as a rebound season for the former first-round draft pick whose ERA ballooned to 5.09 in 2016 and 4.13 in 2017. Still, his .624 winning pct. (53-32) over the past six seasons (2013-18) ranks 10th among National League pitchers.

He, too, can be a free agent after this year.

Leone, 27, appeared in just 29 games last season, missing nearly 100 games from May 6 to August 25 while on the disabled list with nerve irritation in his throwing arm. He was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA. The Cardinals acquired him last year in a trade that sent outfielder Randal Grichuk to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Leone will make $1.26 million in his walk year.