Teammates support Ozuna staying

NEW YORK — Each day Marcell Ozuna is not starting raises speculation about what the future holds for the 23-year-old outfielder.

It’s no secret the Marlins were open to dealing Ozuna before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Indians were among the clubs that showed interest.

The fact Ozuna is healthy and he’s still not a regular has a number of Miami players wondering if he will be gone in 2016. The Marlins saying they’re going with a rotation, and sometimes it is Ozuna’s turn to sit. They club also is evaluating Derek Dietrich in left field, to see if he can be an every day option at some point.

As for Ozuna, several prominent players would like to see him back as a regular. They’ve expressed the team would be better next year with Ozuna staying — noting he is highly popular in the clubhouse, and also is a good teammate.

So why even consider a trade?

It started last offseason. At the time, the Marlins were hopeful to work out at contract extension, but talks between the club and Ozuna’s agent, Scott Boras, didn’t go very far.

Then there was the issue of Ozuna being optioned to Triple-A New Orleans on July 5. He stayed in the Minor Leagues until Aug. 15. The extended stay changed the outfielder’s service time clock. Now, instead of being a Super 2 arbitration-eligible player in 2016, he won’t start arbitration until 2017.

When called back up in August, Ozuna posted on Instagram that he felt he was finally “out of jail.” In the heat of the moment, sometimes things are said that probably shouldn’t be.

To the Miami players, Ozuna is an impact player who has tremendous upside. They’d like for him to remain, but it isn’t their call.

Ozuna also happens to be one of the few viable trade pieces the Marlins have, because their Minor League system is thin. So to land a front-line starter, it may take moving a player of Ozuna’s talents. The fact he’s affordable also helps.

If the Marlins do end up dealing Ozuna, they’d like to get a high-end starter under club control. Miami swung such a deal with the Astros in 2014, getting Jarred Cosart, who has middle-to-top of the rotation stuff. But those trades are hard to swing.

Because Ozuna has had a down year, it is questionable if Miami can land someone the caliber of Carlos Carrasco.

The Marlins, of course, will say Ozuna hit 23 homers and drove in 85 in ’14. But clubs, wanting to hold onto their high-end starters, will point to eight homers and 36 RBIs in 2015.

Like so many Marlins, it’s been a down year for Ozuna. He’s hitting .249/.296/.369. Just one of his homers has come at Marlins Park.

Ozuna also hasn’t torn it up since returning from New Orleans. In 26 games, he’s .247/.278/.473 with four walks. Before being sent down, he was .249/.301/.337 with 21 walks.

Down year or trending downward?

In the eyes of his teammates, it’s a down year. They’d like to see their teammate, nicknamed “Big Bear” back refreshed and ready for 2016. The front office, however, may have other ideas.

Joe Frisaro

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