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Ongoing Giancarlo Stanton drama means it’s almost time to say goodbye to Marcell Ozuna

Ozuna is quietly coming off his own huge year, which should make him a popular target at the Winter Meetings.

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The Big Bear ranked second on the Marlins in most offensive categories last season, trailing only Stanton.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason unfolds in mysterious ways. With all the momentum indicating that Giancarlo Stanton was close to waiving his no-trade clause and accepting a future in San Francisco or St. Louis, the Miami Marlins pivoted to another blockbuster move. On Thursday, they dealt speedster Dee Gordon and $1 million of international slot bonus money to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for three quality prospects and much-desired financial relief.

But later that night, Stanton’s camp decided a few hours out of the spotlight was a few too many. SiriusXM’s Craig Mish reports a shuffling of his priorities that puts sustainable winning far ahead of coastal location, tax considerations and everything else:

Not the most creative wish list! The Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros happened to be the four teams who made the deepest runs into the 2017 postseason. The Astros are the only club among them that doesn’t consistently operate with a massive payroll, but they may have added flexibility coming off the franchise’s first-ever World Series title.

Specifically in regard to the Cardinals and Giants, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic believes Stanton’s opinion of them remains “fluid” (paid subscription required and recommended). Too soon to rule them out, meaning the array of possibilities includes—at least—six destinations.

The key takeaway from these developments? With baseball’s Winter Meetings right around the corner, the Stanton sweepstakes has no resolution in sight.

Even the best individual player cannot hold the market captive forever. Wannabe contenders crave some certainty about their 2018 rosters. Powerless to force the NL MVP to rush his process, expect many of the Stanton suitors to engage in negotiations for Marcell Ozuna.

Marcell Ozuna, meanwhile, has no sway over his future.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

He’s a year younger, a bit less powerful, but also malleable to suit any team’s financial limitations (except for Miami’s, apparently). In his second pass through arbitration eligibility, Ozuna is projected to earn about $10.9 million, in the estimation of MLB Trade Rumors. He could be retained via arbitration again for the 2019 season. What a bargain for the Gold Glove winner, who batted .312/.375/.548 in 159 games last summer and produced 4.8 fWAR overall.

In an interview with Dan Le Batard on 790 The Ticket, former Marlins executive David Samson lamented including the full no-trade clause in Stanton’s contract (h/t Barry Jackson, Miami Herald). There would be no such hurdle in trying to move Ozuna.

In addition to the usual suspects mentioned above, the Oakland Athletics showed interest in early November, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle. That was before they inked reliever Yusmerio Petit, but his modest $10 million signing—covering 2018, 2019 and a 2020 buyout—shouldn’t affect their willingness to acquire Ozuna.

Compared to Dee Gordon, “The Big Bear” figures to be a more desirable asset. The risk is minimal (even his salary next season is only partially guaranteed) and the potential pay-off is enormous as he enters his prime.

Trading Gordon returned right-handed pitchers Nick Neidert and Robert Dugger, plus infielder Christopher Torres. All are prospects age 22 or younger. The Marlins will seek a package exceeding that in both quality and quantity over the coming days.