The Miami Marlins have mixed opinions on the future of outfielder Marcell Ozuna with the team. After the awkward service time demotion situation and Ozuna's quote about Triple-A New Orleans being a "prison," the outfielder's future in Miami is in question. Parties on either side of the debate can be found within the organization.
Unfortunately for the Marlins, their hands are sort of tied on the matter in terms of a value standpoint. The Fish forced the situation by demoting Ozuna and thus gaining a year of service time that was free of arbitration salaries. Ozuna was under team control through the 2019 season either way, but had he spent the entire year in the majors this past season, he could have earned himself an arbitration salary, as he would have likely made Super Two status. However, the Marlins found a reasonable excuse to demote Ozuna and manipulate the service time situation under a reasonable guise of a deserved demotion. After all, Ozuna was struggling at the plate, having batted .249/.301/.337 (.282 wOBA) to start the year.
However, trading the young outfielder now just one season after he had a breakout campaign seems like a shortsighted move, especially for a team bereft of real talent. The Marlins have no minor league options to play in the outfield immediately available. They traded away Jake Marisnick as part of the Jarred Cosart trade. Their outfield depth consists entirely of career minor leaguers or Quad-A caliber players like Jordany Valdespin or Cole Gillespie or aging veterans like Ichiro Suzuki who should not approach starting, The team could move Derek Dietrich to left field and permanently move Christian Yelich to center field, but that would mess up their strong defensive dynamic that they boasted entering the season. Yelich is a fantastic rangy defender, but his arm is far less capable in the longer distances in center field and may be more of a detriment to the team.
More importantly for Miami, trading Ozuna would be another example of the Fish selling low on a prospect after a bad season. Yes, they angered him and his agent Scott Boras, but there is no indication that Ozuna would prefer to play poorly enough to exit Miami without considering how that might affect his future value. The Marlins already forced their arbitration savings into fruition, as Ozuna is unlikely to hit Super Two status and may miss it by a couple of days of Major League time. Ozuna has yet to be paid as a big leaguer, so the 2016 season is going to be crucial for his financial future. The only way to secure his next lucrative contract, Ozuna simply has to continue to play well. He has no other leverage on the Marlins.
The Marlins have every reason to continue letting him play out 2016. Beyond not having further options, the club simplycannot afford to sell low on yet another talent. The team has traded a number of players on sell-low schemes before they developed. Cameron Maybin was traded before he earned an arbitration check because he spent about 400 mediocre plate appearances over the course of two partial seasons in Miami. The team grew impatient and traded him for relievers who quickly became irrelevant while Maybin put up a nice year, got hurt, and now has recaptured some strong play in Atlanta. The team dealt Andrew Miller as well before trying to figure out what he could be; he eventually turned into an ace reliever and earned a huge contract with the Yankees years later.
The team is light on talent as of right now. The best chance for it to gain any talent back is for it to allow any trade assets it might have develop or to retain its already productive players. The club kept Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich around long term, and it probably plans on holding onto Jose Fernandez for as long as financially possible. The team already decreased Ozuna's price for next year, so it has no reason to bail on him before allowing him to play out his string and improve his value. Trading Ozuna now is likely dealing him at his lowest point. The team is not financially restricted by keeping him. The only smart decision is to let him rebuild his trade value next year, even if the plan is to eventually deal him for future talent by 2017.
The Marlins and Ozuna have made their beds in this situation. The Fish have given themselves every reason to keep Ozuna and let him improve under their watch, either to make him a long-term option or to make him better trade bait. Ozuna is under team control and has a lot of financial incentive to perform well. The two may not have a happy marriage, but at least for 2016, there is no reason for them not to stick it out and continue to try and make it work.