The Miami Marlins are apparently shopping young center fielder Marcell Ozuna and there is a report a west coast team is in the middle of discussions.
Source: Market on Marcell Ozuna is moving fast. Marlins have spoken trade with multiple teams, including one West Coast team recently.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 6, 2016
Could the San Diego Padres be the team that Jeff Passan is referring to? Ozuna would probably be of interest to the Padres, but the Marlins asking price is reportedly very steep. The Padres would covet the young outfielder, but there are some factors that make a potential deal likely.
The first issue is the Marlins’ asking price. The talented center fielder had a breakout year in 2004 when he hit .269 with 23 home runs and 85 RBIs while producing a 4.5 WAR rating. He looked to be on the verge of becoming a perennial offensive force in Major League Baseball.
Instead, Ozuna got himself in the doghouse last year with Marlins management and was even sent to Triple-A (which he likened to being in jail). He hit .259 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 123 games with Miami, so he definitely took a step back with his offensive production. Looking at Ozuna’s numbers, you will see that he has a high strikeout percentage and a low walk rate throughout his career. He is still 25 so to label him as a certain type of player is a little premature. Ozuna also plays high-caliber defense in the outfield.
Owner Jefferey Loria is fed up with Ozuna for some reason. There are reports he was disappointed in Ozuna and his work ethic at the beginning of the 2015 season. Some within the organization would like to hold on to Ozuna, but Loria rules the Marlins with an iron fist and Ozuna is just about as good as gone. The angst may also stem from displeasure over Ozuna and his agent, Scott Boras, being unwilling to work out a long-term, team-friendly extension.
The Marlins are looking for pitching, and there is a rumor that the Texas Rangers and the Marlins had been working on a deal for Ozuna. The Marlins would reportedly receive young pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez, but a deal is not imminent at this point. The right handed Gonzalez is a decent prospect who went 4-6 this season in Texas with a 3.90 ERA in 14 games and 10 starts.
The Padres have some young pitching. For instance, would the team consider moving someone like Colin Rea for Ozuna? The young Rea projects very much like the Rangers young pitcher, but the Marlins would surely want more. The Padres have the ability to get a deal done, but is adding Ozuna to an already crowed outfield a smart thing to do? That would be the second issue in a potential deal.
Matt Kemp, Jon Jay, Melvin Upton Jr., Travis Jankowski and perhaps Wil Myers (if he isn’t playing first base) are all outfielders competing for spots in the Padres lineup. When you add Rymer Liriano (who is out of options), Hunter Renfroe and Alex Dickerson, the Padres have plenty of outfield options.
Jon Jay is in the last year of his contract, and it is no secret the Padres would love to get Melvin Upton off their books. The team also seems very wary of Jankowski and his ability to play everyday at a major-league level at this point in his career. The Padres struggled letting Jankowski lead off last year, so they definitely have some hesitation about rushing this young man.
Ozuna is an above-average defender with potential to become even better. He plays a solid center field and despite not having the best speed, covers a lot of ground on the field. He would be a nice addition for the Padres long-term as he is signed through the 2019 season. His agent is Scott Boras, so that could be an issue at some point for a team acquiring him.
Ultimately its hard to believe the Padres are in negotiations with the Marlins for Ozuna. The shortstop hole needs to be addressed and A.J. Preller has even indicated that the team is focusing on acquiring a shortstop first. That is their top priority. Ozuna would be a nice addition, but he just isn’t a fit with how the Padres are currently structured. His high strikeout propensity and low on-base percentage is not what the Padres should be focused on at the moment.
I will say that with A.J. Preller at the helm anything can happen. The Padres roster could surely be adjusted before the spring. We will just have to sit back and wait to see what direction he goes to improve this franchise which is starving for a winning season.