The Marlins find themselves in an intriguing position with 26 year-old Marcell Ozuna.
Ozuna has more talent than one can shake a stick at, but he struggles to put it all together consistently. For example, in 2014 he posted a very solid .269/23 HR/85 RBI/ .772 OPS line, but then came the lackluster 2015 campaign where he was eventually demoted. At one point, the Fish considered dropping him completely, but decided to try him out with the incoming Mattingly staff and search for a more interested buyer’s market.
However, Ozuna came out hot at the start of the 2016 season, capped off with an eye-popping .411/7 HR/17 RBI month of May. His accrued resume resulted in his first All-Star nomination. To further the trend of unpredictability, Ozuna’s last 63 games of 2016 contained an abysmal .209, 6 HR, and 29 RBI, but in his 18 games of 2017 he’s hitting .306, 6 HR, and 21 RBI. Additionally, he garnered last week’s NL Player of the Week award, anchors what is (at least) a top four outfield in the league, and is currently tied with Bryce Harper for most RBI in the majors.
With such a wildcard behind the plate, should Miami continue to test the waters for the career Marlin? Their time to do so may be running out regardless. If the Marlins are out of contention for the playoffs before the trade deadline then they will have a difficult decision to make. Ozuna would have two and a half years of team control remaining on his $3.5 million contract, and Miami would hold little to no shot of extending due to his agent’s (Scott Boras) history of success on the free agent market. In 2015, Ozuna commented “[Boras] tells me ‘Don’t hurry,'” said Ozuna. “Be waiting for the moment, and let’s see what happens in a couple of years” according to MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. An Ozuna trade could be the best opportunity of the season for the Marlins to begin to remedy their farm system, ranked 29th in consecutive years.
So, if conditions continue, the Marlins might have reached a fork in the road. No one in the front office, on the bench, or in the stands (myself included) wants to break up such a tightly-knit team. No one wants the Marlins’ history of dumpster fire-esque trades (Exhibits A-Z) to continue. No one wants to watch Ozuna play from a distance. But we might not have a choice.
The Fish have at least an average player for every spot, both in the field and in the lineup. The starting rotation is stocked with arms mostly designed for the middle. With last year’s free agency market overflowing with outfield talent, this year’s options will definitely be diminished, and a player like Ozuna will have a much higher return. If Ozuna can continue the good work he has already done here at the beginning of the 2017 season, then Scott Boras and Co. will already be calculating contract terms the Marlins will not be interested in, with Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton signed on for the foreseeable future. With the farm system not really yielding a harvest, a bleak history of drafting for success, and a serious depth problem, the Marlins need to find creative (and potentially painful) solutions if they plan on contending in the future.
Ozuna will be leaving the Marlins. It is sadly not a matter of if but when and under what conditions. The Marlins have the option of building their base now, supporting the surefire players of the future, and striving to improve a team that shows great signs of potential. Alternatively, we can all enjoy watching Ozuna through the rest of his contract, only to have to wave good-bye with nothing to show for it.
No trade involving #13 is likely to occur in the next few months, as the season matures and teams watch to see if Ozuna can eliminate his wildcard distinction. The conversation will only continue to heat up from there.
Should the Marlins trade Marcell Ozuna in 2017?
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