While the potential of a Giancarlo Stanton trade seems to be dominating headlines in Miami, the Marlins have plenty of other players who could potentially be on the move this winter as they look to cut payroll. In particular, a trade of outfielder Marcell Ozuna has the potential to bring back a big haul in terms of prospects while saving the Marlins something in the neighborhood of $25MM over the next two seasons. As a client of Scott Boras, Ozuna is unlikely to sign any sort of extension to remain in Miami, so the organization seems likely to at least explore some trade scenarios this winter.
When considering the possibility of an Ozuna trade, one has to take into account that the Marlins don’t seem to be in any rush to move him. The team reportedly values his contributions highly, and seems more focused on finding trade partners for other players, including Stanton, Dee Gordon and Martin Prado. Any trade involving Ozuna will likely have to meet the Marlins’ asking price without much in the way of wiggle room.
That being said, there would seem to be no shortage of suitors for the two-time All-Star. Ozuna has experience at all three outfield positions (though his defense in center field leaves something to be desired), and packs a wallop from the right side of the plate. His 37 homers and breakout .312/.376/.548 batting line across 679 plate appearances in 2017 could have teams around the league salivating at the mere thought of him being shopped. MLBTR’s arbitration projection model expects him to earn $10.9MM in 2018, which is a considerable sum but certainly a bargain on a 4.8 fWAR player. It would be more difficult to think of contending teams that don’t have a need for Ozuna than to list off those who do.
The key to finding the best suitors for Ozuna comes down to a question of which contending teams have the kind of high-ceiling prospects necessary to wow the Marlins, along with a hole in their outfield gaping enough to give that talent up. For example, the Astros have the kind of prospects that could get a deal done, but probably wouldn’t be interested in paying such a high price to upgrade over serviceable players like Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez. Conversely, the Arizona Diamondbacks have a J.D. Martinez-sized hole in their outfield but lack the kind of headliner prospect necessary to tempt Ozuna away from the Fish.
One potential match that comes to mind is the Nationals. With Jayson Werth set to become a free agent, Ozuna could take over left field. It’s unlikely the Nats would be willing to part with Victor Robles, but even Juan Soto and Carter Kieboom could provide a good starting point. On the other hand, while it makes some sense on paper, division rivals don’t often make trades of that magnitude with each other. To make matters more complicated, the Nationals are already likely to exceed the luxury tax threshold in 2018, and adding another $10.9MM salary to the books would only make things worse.
The Rays, Braves and Blue Jays all own multiple prospects in MLB Pipeline’s top 25, and all three teams could plug a considerable hole with the addition of Ozuna. However, one has to wonder if any of these teams are complete enough to warrant the kind of all-in move that an Ozuna trade would represent. It certainly helps that he comes with two years of team control and would therefore be more than simply a rental.
The Indians are an interesting option. While they have a glut of outfield options after picking up the option on Michael Brantley, they could really benefit from a right-handed outfielder to balance out all the lefties, including Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer and Jason Kipnis. One could see an alignment in which Ozuna slots in as their everyday right fielder while Brantley plays first base or DH and Kipnis plays at second. Cleveland holds blue-chip prospects in Francisco Mejia and Triston McKenzie.
The Cardinals are worth mentioning, since they would probably have some level of interest considering their reported pursuit of Stanton. They have a number of top 100 prospects in their system and a 40-man roster crunch that could make it worth dealing a couple of them.
One match that seems to stand out above the rest, however, is the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their outfield is deep, but they’re lacking in truly elite corner outfielders and they probably wouldn’t have trouble tacking on an extra $10.9MM in payroll. To boot, their farm system is one of the deepest in baseball. One could imagine them dangling Alex Verdugo or Yadier Alvarez as a starting point, and adding to the package from there. In theory, the Dodgers seem like a really good match for an Ozuna trade.
As I mentioned earlier, the Marlins certainly don’t need to trade Ozuna this winter, especially if they’re more focused on moving other players. If they want to, however, they’d find no shortage of interested teams. The market for Ozuna would be strong, so Miami ought to seriously consider the possibility.