Now that Giancarlo Stanton is off their plate, the Marlins are engaged in trade talks for some of their other players, with outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich drawing the greatest interest.
At least six to eight teams have inquired about Ozuna, and even more have spoken to the Marlins about Yelich. But the Marlins are telling teams they’re more inclined to deal Ozuna than Yelich — at least for now.
“You’re talking about a great player,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Ozuna. “He had a tremendous year, and I think every club would like to have him, to have a complete player like this.”
The Giants have been linked to Ozuna after falling short in their quest to acquire Stanton. But they might not have the prospects the Marlins are seeking to pull off a deal for him.
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The Cardinals, on the other hand, are a different story.
They have high-end prospects that intrigue the Marlins, such as right-handed pitchers Sandy Alcantara and Jack Flaherty. Like the Giants, the Cardinals were also spurned by Stanton when he refused to accept a trade to St. Louis.
The Cardinals also like Yelich.
But the general belief at the Winter Meetings is that the Marlins will first deal Ozuna, who is coming off his best season, and that the Cardinals are favorites to acquire him.
Still, they’re hardly the only team taking a hard look at Ozuna.
Sources said that the Cardinals, Nationals, Rangers, Blue Jays and Rockies are among a host of teams that have spoken to the Marlins about Ozuna, and the A’s are also engaged, according to a published report.
Ozuna, who will become eligible for free agency after the 2019 season, is projected to make about $11 million next year through salary arbitration. Trading Ozuna would likely net the Marlins an attractive return of prospects while helping them move closer to their reported payroll target of about $90 million.
Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill was vague with reporters when asked about the team’s plans going forward in the aftermath of the Stanton and Dee Gordon trades.
“You take a step back, after Gordon, after Stanton, and you look at where your club is and if there may be further opportunity out there to continue to try to add depth, or make value deals or deals that make sense for the organization in the long term,” Hill said.
In addition to Ozuna, sources said the Marlins are also shopping relievers Brad Ziegler ($9 million next season) and Junichi Tazawa ($7 million). Ziegler is reportedly of interest to the Cardinals.
The Marlins could also move second baseman Starlin Castro, who was one of three players they received from the Yankees in the Stanton deal and is due to receive $10 million next season.
Hill said he and his staff are trying to strengthen their minor-league system to give them upper-level depth, a sore spot that became glaring last season when the starting staff was decimated by injuries (Edinson Volquez, Wei-Yin Chen) and underperformance.
“We had no depth,” Hill said. “We know it. When you don’t have that depth to be able to reach down and pull up something that would allow you to weather the storm, you’re just a distinct disadvantage.”