The Miami Marlins' final part of the 2016 Offseason Plan is one that only has to be explored, if not necessarily completed to perfection. The Marlins should trade A.J. Ramos, Martin Prado, and Mike Dunn for value, and they should sign a few value starting pitchers to help out in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. However, the last part of the plan (they already committed the step of releasing one starter earning arbitration) is to look into the possibility of trade options for two important 2016 names: Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna
The Case for Trading
Both players have obvious trade cases, should the Marlins come down to that decision. In Ozuna's case, there is potentially irreparable damage in the relationship between Ozuna and the Marlins. Furthermore, since the Fish's service-time manipulation worked, Ozuna now has four years of service time left on the team with no Super Two salary hike, meaning this year will come fairly cheap. This heightens Ozuna's value even more on the open market. Trading Ozuna might yield the pitcher the Marlins have been looking for if they choose not to sign one from free agency.
The case for Gordon is based on selling high rather than selling low.Gordon is coming off a second straight All-Star season and a phenomenal campaign that still has its question marks. Can he maintain the level of production expected of a newly-minted "core" player, or will he struggle and fall back to Earth in 2016 and beyond? The reasons for potential downside are there, and not just because Gordon's BABIP was high last year; there are examples of players of similar ilk struggling by the time they reach their early 30's.
In Gordon's case, the Marlins could sell high on a major asset who is going to start making major money; one could reasonably expect Gordon to make close to $30 million in the next three arbitration seasons. In Ozuna, they would be trading low, but selling on a guy who may not want to be in Miami anymore and would never sign a team-friendly deal with the club anyway. Ozuna is destined to leave Miami at some point in the next few years anyway.
All of this is tied to the fact that the Marlins still need to beef up a drastically thin farm system to have any help going forward. The club is terribly low on talent in the farm, and any injuries to the Marlins would jeopardize any progress the Fish make. After spending the last year and change trading talent to get Major Leaguers, many of whom have not panned out, the Fish need to rebuild their farm badly.
The Case for Staying
Of course, if the picture was so clear cut, the Marlins probably would have done it already. But it is not so simple for either player. For Ozuna, his value could not be worse right now, as he is coming off of a one-win season complete with him pouting about his service-time manipulation and facing questions about fitness and his whiff-heavy bat. Ozuna's best chance to find a great suitor, and the Marlins' best chance to find the prospects or talent they want for Ozuna, would be allow the 25-year-old to develop in 2016 under their watch and rebuild his value.
As for Gordon, any move pretty much runs counter to the Marlins' belief that Gordon is an elite talent. Trading such a talent would lead to a lot of backlash once again from a tortured Marlins fan base. Gordon is a likable and marketable player while he still is playing at a high level, and it is not as though the Fish have ready replacements at second base lying around. After trading both Austin Barnes and Enrique Hernandez for Gordon, Miami's infield depth is shot beyond Derek Dietrich. Trading Gordon figures to strictly worsen the team for 2016.
So trading a likable good player or a talent at the nadir of his value are pretty counterintuitive to the team's success.
What do the Fish do then? Discussing a trade does not mean actually agreeing to one, and the Fish should do their due diligence with Ozuna and Gordon like they apparently did with Jose Fernandez. Of course, players do not enjoy being on the trade block, but the incentive is for the player to play well and increase his stock for future salaries rather than tank for his current team and detract from his value. So even if news gets out that either player was on the block, the Fish should have no issue with losing value in the 2016 year if those players do not get moved.
There should be good interest in both Ozuna and Gordon, if the Marlins look around. FanGraphs' Depth Charts show that several contending teams like the Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals, and Los Angeles Angels would have interest in acquiring a good second baseman to replace their current option. Meanwhile, the upside allure of Ozuna has already at least interested the Seattle Mariners, and rumors with the Cleveland Indians are always abound.
None of this is to say that a trade should happen. But again, the Marlins should not label either player as untouchable, and as the team's two best non-untouchable trade assets, the Fish would be right to at least consider offers before hanging up the phone. Making calls out to these teams may also be a good idea.