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Trading for Marcell Ozuna

I need to apologize to Marcell Ozuna, here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario...

On July 5th, I wrote a piece outlining center fielders that the Cleveland Indians and Chris Antonetti could make a deal for to help improve the line-up. The #8 player on that list was Ozuna, the Miami Marlins starting center fielder.

Ozuna was sent down to the Marlins Triple A affiliate, the New Orleans Zephyrs that same day. According to Marlins president of baseball operations, Michael Hell, Ozuna was sent down to "get his rhythm back." 

At the time, Ozuna was spinning his wheels at the plate, and was mired in 1-for-36 slump, which dropped his average from .280, to .249. Equally troubling was his loss of power. The middle-of-the-order bat had only four homers and 26 RBI, after a 23 homer, 85 RBI season in 2014.

Where it gets murky with Ozuna's demotion though, are the whys. Sure, he was struggling, but with a bush league owner in Jeffrey Loria, and a jackwagon agent in Scott Boras, there could be more at play here than meets the eye. In March, Ozuna and Boras refused to sign a long-term extension to stay with the Marlins. Keep in mind that Ozuna is under club control through 2019, but the Marlins wanted to sign their entire outfield to long terms deals, after wrapping up Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich this offseason.

Since then, there have been some issues with Ozuna and management. While this wasn't discussed much during spring training, in April, reports that the Ozuna wasn't in shape began to surface, although these all tended to be "internal" reports, or after-the-fact. He did appear to be a bit heavy, but complaints didn't leak out, or get overtly reported, until the regular season, long after Ozuna turned down the deal. Complaints of an attitude also surfaced, with Ozuna "not running as fast to first base" as he did in 2014 being reported. Ozuna was also benched early in the year after showing up late for a batting practice.

On top of that, Ozuna, who was spectacular on many levels in center field last year, was struggling this year. Sure, he still made plays, but his total zone total fielding runs average was a plus-6 last year, which was fifth best in the league, but was sitting at a -7 at the time of his demotion. That was in the bottom quarter of major league baseball. No, that's not the end-all, but it certainly is an interesting indicator, a red-flag if you will.

He was struggling. There were some signs of the potential for offensive struggles during last year's breakout season. Just remember, it's really hard to gauge any sort of offensive movement after one full season. He had a moderately inflated BABIP last year, but nothing too worrisome, and again, that sample size. His wRC+ has taken a precipitous drop, from 114 to 76. Of course, Ozuna never really had a chance to rebound in any sort of way.

In other words, the league figured out Ozuna, and he didn't adjust. You can decide if he had enough time.

Last year, pitchers were largely trying to jam Ozuna up, and he was crushing the inside of the plate. Fast-forward to 2015, and the league did their homework. So what does this mean? Ozuna doesn't have opposite power...yet.

While he was able to spray the ball to all parts of the field, he struggles hitting the ball HARD to right field. When you combine that with his struggles hitting the baseball, you have a youngster struggling. It happens.

Marlins outfield coach, and former Cleveland Indians' center fielder, Brett Butler, said it pretty simply,
"I don't care if you're a Hall of Famer or not, the key to success at the big-league level is being able to make the adjustment to the adjustment, and these guys are young. When I was coming up, you spent five, six years in the minors. Now, they're rushed. So they're learning how to do that up here. This is invaluable for them. It's only going to make them better all around."
Ozuna was called up after a 10-game stint in Double A.

A ten-game stint.

But it gets tricky when you talk Marlins.

Were the Marlins worried about his long term (Christian Yelich was struggling as well, but never sent down) production, or were they more worried about his long term financials? He's really close to becoming a Super Two, and holding him in the minors for another ten days will keep him from arbitration next season. When you're talking Loria and Boras, anything is possible, and it's likely he needs to get out of dodge.

So why would the Indians deal for this guy?

When he's going right, he's a fantastic outfielder with a canon of an arm, as I mentioned in my earlier piece. He can be a fantastic fielder in center, but equally profiles to right field, which is where he'd likely move in Cleveland, once Bradley Zimmer comes up to the big leagues. Or, Zimmer could profile into right field as well. It's an interesting conundrum to have.

He's still learning, under control until after the 2019 season, and would definitively merit a starting spot in the line-up going forward, provided the Indians continued to develop his ability to control the strike zone. Sure, it's easier said than done, but over the years, this is the one area in which the Indians have seemingly excelled in.

No, he'll never be a high average, high OBP guy, but the power is still there, and if he figures out the outside of the zone, he could explode. Big ifs for sure, but controllable talent is hard to come by.

The struggle is what to give up, because the Marlins would be looking at Ozuna as a "top prospect," even though he's had almost two years of major league service time. The Indians would be looking at him as a controllable player that struggled enough to get sent down to the minors.

Who knows what they would ask for regarding Ozuna, but the one thing I wouldn't send their way is Carlos Carrasco, who has been rumored to be moving all week long. The Marlins also seem to be okay up the middle, with Dee Gordon at second base, and Adeiny Hechavarria at short, so Jose Ramirez doesn't seem to be a fit either.

Where things could get interesting is at third base or the outfield, if you think the Indians have some secondary minor leaguers that are worthwhile to the Marlins. I'm not so sure.. With Martin Prado at third, and no obvious third baseman ready to take his spot, the Indians could focus on a smaller package involving Lonnie Chisenhall and take your pick of outfield prospects not named Frazier or Zimmer.

And therein lies the problem.

The Indians shouldn't deal any of their top prospects for Ozuna, because there are just too many questions. He seems to be mercurial, and he seems to get have focus issues to boot. With the lack of development in Double and Triple A, it's distinctly possible that he could spend some time in the minors.

I love Ozuna, but if you are dealing anything more than a Lonnie Chisenhall/Tyler Naquin package, I'm not in.

But here's the wild-card player, to me.

Yandy Diaz.

Could the Indians put together a Luigi Rodriguez/Yandy Diaz deal that would look enticing to the Marlins? I think so.

But past those types of players, I'm not a buyer on a guy like Ozuna.
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