After Marcell Ozuna had a season to forget in 2015, there were multiple reports that the Marlins were shopping him for a major league ready starting pitcher and possibly prospects. This was because the free agent market was producing some exorbitant fees for starting pitching, especially in the cases of David Price and Zack Greinke. Therefore, the Marlins thought it would be in their best interest to pursue pitchers on the trade market.
Exchanging Ozuna, who spectacularly failed to meet expectations last season, for a pitcher who could bring stability to Miami's rotation looked to be a win-win situation for the organization. However, negotiations were slow, and the Marlins finally bit the bullet last week by signing free agent Wei-Yin Chen to a $80 million contract over five years.
While another talented arm could shape the Marlins into a more legitimate contender, the need is less desperate, and the team now looks content in keeping the young Dominican. This does not necessarily signal that the club has restored confidence in Ozuna, though. As most of you recall, he was famously demoted to Triple-A last year only a few months after putting the final touches on a 23 homer, 85 RBI campaign.
At the start of last year, there was a lot of talk around the league that the Marlins had the best outfield in baseball. Such talk has now stopped, and although it wasn't entirely Ozuna's fault (Yelich's slow start and Stanton's injury didn't help), the team will likely be hoping he can regain his stroke from two seasons ago. While expectations should be more limited than this time last year, he will have to prove that he is a much better every day option in center field than Derek Dietrich.
If Ozuna produces anywhere near replacement-level player numbers, he will likely be sent packing long before August. The comments made after his demotion and the less than solid relationship with his agent will have resulted in the Marlins giving him a short leash; he won't be given much time to develop into the player Miami thinks he can be.
Let's not forget that Marcell Ozuna is a bounce-back candidate for 2016, as he has all the right tools to get his career back on track. The Marlins thought they had a talented player who could be sandwiched between Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton for years to come and they still might. All Ozuna has to do is rediscover his stroke and remind the team of his skills.
People often say "new year, new me". If Marcell Ozuna really likes playing in Miami, he better hope that statement comes true.