Marcell Ozuna has been the source of some controversy this season, and that, paired with his disappointing offensive output, could have him on the trade block this winter. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that while many in the organization would like to hold onto Ozuna given his considerable upside, team owner Jeffrey Loria is “disappointed” in Ozuna and “very much open to trading him” in exchange for pitching help.
Ozuna, still just 24 years old, broke out in 2014 when he hit .269/.317/.455 with 23 homers in 153 games. Ozuna coupled that above-average production with solid play in center field to deliver a season valued at roughly 3.5 wins above replacement, per both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference. Entering the season, he was expected to contribute to what many (myself included) regarded as the best young outfield in all of baseball.
Five months later, Ozuna is hitting .249/.296/.368 with eight homers. He spent more than a month in Triple-A earlier this season after floundering through a prolonged 1-for-36 slump, and upon his return, he likened the time in Triple-A to a jail sentence. Agent Scott Boras accused the Marlins of manipulating Ozuna’s service time, as the length of his demotion perhaps uncoincidentally appears to have been enough to prevent the outfielder from reaching Super Two designation and being eligible for arbitration a fourth time. Beyond that, he drew some criticism from decision-makers within the organization, as some questioned his conditioning early in the year (also via Jackson).
Shortly after the drama surrounding Ozuna’s demotion subsided, I profiled him at length as a trade candidate. Since that examination, Ozuna has looked better at the plate, hitting .258/.290/.494 with four homers in 93 plate appearances. He’s showing signs of another possibly extended slump, though, as he’s collected just one hit in his past 15 trips to the plate.
If Ozuna is indeed dangled in trade offers this winter, plenty of clubs would figure to have interest. He’s unlikely to be arbitration eligible until next offseason and can be controlled through the 2019 season. The Indians reportedly showed interest prior to the non-waiver trade deadline and certainly have the young pitching the Marlins would seek. From a speculative standpoint, the Giants, Padres, Mariners, Reds, Tigers, Angels, A’s and Orioles could all use outfield help in some capacity (though not necessarily in center field in each case). Of course, not all of those organizations are currently rife with young pitching options to send to Miami in return.