At one time, Marcell Ozuna was expected to be Miami's long-term center fielder. But that might no longer be the case.
Ozuna drew a notable amount of interest in the days leading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, there are "mixed views" inside the Marlins with regard to whether the club should consider dealing Ozuna this winter. Jackson adds that while some executives remain high on him, "at least one prominent Marlins person" is open to moving him in the coming months.
If Ozuna was having a solid 2015 campaign, there might not be questions pertaining to his future with the organization. But the 24-year old center fielder has struggled with the Marlins over 80 games this season, batting .249/.301/.336 to complement four home runs and 26 RBIs.
As a result of Ozuna's slow start, the Marlins opted to send him to Triple-A New Orleans, where he batted .317/.379/.558 in addition to five home runs and 11 RBIs over 33 games. He also missed a handful of contests with a wrist injury but was able quickly return to the lineup.
As a result of injuries and inconsistencies, the Marlins are sitting in last place in the National League East. Miami will likely evaluate its roster with 2016 in mind over the next few weeks and is expected to carefully monitor Ozuna. If Ozuna has success offensively, the Marlins might not consider a trade. But if he continues to struggle, the organization could explore other options.
The Marlins were prepared to extend Ozuna last spring but he reportedly declined their offer. Ozuna is represented by Scott Boras, who encourages his clients to test the free agent market instead of signing extensions while still under contract.
If the Marlins traded Ozuna, the organization would likely have to explore external outfield options. Cole Gillespie has played well but might not produce consistently over a 162 game season and Derek Dietrich has seen time in the outfield but could be viewed as more of a utility player. The organization dealt Jake Marisnick to the Astros in the Jarred Cosart trade and as a result does not have a notable amount of outfield depth.
Miami is expected to add starting pitching this offseason and if the club is more interested in doing so through trades rather than free agency, Ozuna could be used as the main piece in any deal.
Over the next few weeks, Ozuna will either prove he can produce and be the Marlins' starting center fielder moving forward or have difficulty at the plate and encourage the Marlins to consider other options. Ozuna is viewed as an attractive outfield piece and the Marlins might take advantage of that this winter.