clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Marlins expected to trade Marcell Ozuna, asking for young starter in return

The Tigers need starting pitching, but Ozuna would be a major upgrade.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jeffrey Loria might be the most hated man in baseball. The Miami Marlins owner has committed multiple sins over the years, from all-but-killing the Montreal Expos to extorting public funs for his team's new stadium to collecting profit sharing dollars by the millions. It doesn't seem that far-fetched to say that the Marlins will never win another championship as long as he owns the team.

This offseason has only added more fuel to the fire. Loria and the Marlins may have toyed with the idea of trading Jose Fernandez, their young superstar pitcher. Fernandez has been labeled as a bit of a clubhouse problem, but we've seen what happens when you trade a budding superstar in their early 20s (thanks for Miggy, guys). The Marlins have balked at the idea publicly, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Fernandez moved.

Fernandez isn't the only player grinding Loria's gears, though. According to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, the Marlins are expected to move 25-year-old outfielder Marcell Ozuna at some point this offseason. Apparently, Loria "clearly can't stand the guy," and the Marlins are looking for a young starter in return. Add in their recent kerfuffle with agent Scott Boras, who represents Ozuna, and there is a lot of evidence that Ozuna will be in a different uniform next season. Several teams will likely be interested in Ozuna, who put up 3.7 WAR in 2014, and the Tigers have the pitching to be in the mix.

2015 494 10 44 .259 .308 .383 89 6.1% 22.3% -1.4 -3 1.1
Steamer 523 17 66 .267 .318 .439 106 6.5% 21.8% - - 2.3
Career 1397 36 161 .265 .311 .416 101 6.0% 23.7% 4.7 10 6.5
Who is he?

Ozuna, an athletic center fielder from the Dominican Republic, signed with the Marlins as an amateur free agent in 2008. He mashed his way through the minor leagues, hitting 69 home runs from 2010 to 2012. An excellent showing in the minors early on in 2013 led to a major league call up, but he struggled his way to a .693 OPS in 70 games. His season ended early when he had thumb surgery in July.

It didn't take Ozuna long to get up to speed in 2014. He raced out to an .844 OPS in April, and finished the year hitting .269/.317/.455 with 23 home runs in 612 plate appearances. He also put up +10 defensive runs saved (DRS) in center field, resulting in 3.7 WAR for the year. He was demoted halfway through 2015, which caused a bit of commotion despite a .638 OPS, but returned to hit .278/.320/.469 over the final two months of the year.

Why should we care?

Youth. Speed. Power. Ozuna has all three, and doesn't hit arbitration until after the 2016 season. He mashed 23 home runs in the middle of the Marlins' lineup in 2014, good enough for a .186 ISO that ranked 14th among MLB outfielders. His power numbers took a step back in 2015, but he posted a .191 ISO after he was recalled to the majors in mid-August. During a six-week stint in the minor leagues, he hit .317/.37/.558 with 18 extra base hits in 132 plate appearances.

Then there's the defense. Ozuna isn't an elite defender, by any means, but he has been worth +5 DRS and has a UZR/150 of 0.6 in nearly 2500 career innings in center field for the Marlins. League average defense with an above average bat in center field makes for a valuable asset, and one can assume that he would be even better in a corner outfield spot. Ozuna's arm ranks well above average by advanced metrics, and it passes the eye test too.

Why should we stay away?

Being disliked by Jeffrey Loria might not be what you call a "character flaw," but the comments by the Marlins brass aren't exactly heartwarming. Ozuna compared his minor league demotion to being in jail, and said "I don't need the work" when describing why he was demoted. These are only snippets, and ones that can be manipulated before print, but having a team all but give up on you this early is not a good sign.

As for on field performance, Ozuna's biggest flaw is his lack of plate discipline. He walked just 6.1 percent of the time in 2015, and swung at pitches outside the strike zone at a well above average clip. His overall swing rate wasn't that egregious -- he was just below Victor Martinez on the season -- but his contact rate is Anthony Gose-ish at 75.2 percent. This offensive profile can work (see: Martinez, J.D.), but it's not the most common recipe for long-term success.

Will he end up in Detroit?

Despite the pseudo-concerns over Ozuna's character -- again, we only have Loria's personal distaste for him to go on -- there should be a robust market for a young, cost-controlled outfielder who hits for power. The Tigers' Matt Boyd coupon will likely be invalid, as there is just too much demand for a very limited supply. Flipping Michael Fulmer for four years of Ozuna seems like a fair deal, but there are too many factors involved for us to make any sort of educated guess on this situation.