The Miami Marlins have a baseline of strengths and weaknesses on their current roster, things that may need to be addressed this offseason. However, the Fish also have a set of interesting opportunities for themselves that could make their roster better, even without necessarily breaking the bank with moves. What opportunities are available to the team? Let's explore a few parts of the roster that could offer upside.
1) Rehabbing Marcell Ozuna
The Marlins' major priority in terms of opportunities is to improve the situation involving Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna is a potential power talent on a team starved for that kind of production, but last year's struggles on the field and conflict off the field with upper management have made the situation in Miami tense. The Marlins have openly shopped him for pitching help, and there are rumors the Fish are discussing a trade with the Seattle Mariners for the outfielder.
The Marlins have many options available to make their Ozuna problem more palatable. As mentioned before here, the best option is to keep Ozuna for the 2016 season and let him work out his on-field problems. There are many positives to this approach. For one, the Fish get the benefit of a previously strong starting-caliber player who will serve a role on their roster. Miami has no readily available outfielder who is capable of starting for the team in 2016. Without Ozuna, they would be out another starter just to fill a starting pitcher role, essentially trading one team hole for another.
The team wants a high-tier starting pitcher for Ozuna's services, but it is unlikely they could swing such a trade now. Ozuna is at his lowest trade value thanks to his ugly 2015 year. The best chance of Miami getting what they want for Ozuna, even if he is not a long-term piece for the team, is to let him rehabilitate his value on the field in 2016. If he struggles again, it is unlikely the Fish would get much, but at least this plan offers more upside. If the Marlins get a 2014-like season from Ozuna, they either have an outfielder of the future to pair with Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton or they have a player they can send off for a good, team-controlled starter. For a club with as many restrictions as the Fish, they need to play for the highest upside.
2) A Dee Gordon trade
The other interesting opportunity hanging over the Marlins is the other side of the Ozuna coin. Gordon is coming off of his best year as a Marlin, and there are already rumors of a potential trade discussion as well as a contract extension. The Marlins have made no qualms about saying Gordon is an elite player and a welcome member of this team. Indeed, Gordon's four-plus win season last year was an excellent development for a team looking for another star player.
The problem is that there is no guarantee Gordon is a star. He added near-Gold Glove defense at second to his resume, but he also outhit his expectations by a fair margin without seemingly improving any of his underlying skills. He picked up a lot more hits without a strong reason as to why. These all point to perhaps this being a marquee or peak season for the 27-year-old second baseman.
The Marlins could, for once, sell high on a player rather than low. Instead of trying to keep Gordon until he is a competitive Marlins team and hoping that he stays at this level of play, the team could build towards that future by replenishing a starved farm system for talent. A Gordon deal could net the Marlins that young starter they want and may even get them a prospect. That may be more beneficial than keeping Gordon through his prime while the overall team struggles.
Of course, there is a big concern with that type of move. Gordon may not be an All-Star every year, but he is at least a league-average regular and perhaps a three-win player at this point. The Marlins would be tossing that aside for added risk in acquiring younger, less well-tested pieces. But again, this is the move that offers the team the most upside. Gordon is a guarantee, but he may not be a guarantee by the next time the Marlins are competitive.