NASHVILLE -- At least seven to 10 teams have touched base with the Marlins concerning Marcell Ozuna, sources are telling me, increasing the likelihood that the outfielder will be traded at some point. The Marlins are seeking young, controllable starting pitching in return.
But there is clearly demand for Ozuna.
One team that has shown interest is the Yankees, according to George King III of the New York Post:
According to a person familiar with the Marlins’ thinking, they aren’t opposed to dealing outfielder Marcell Ozuna, who interests the Yankees despite the 25-year-old right-handed hitter batting .259 with 10 homers, 44 RBIs and a .691 OPS last season. When the Marlins sent him to Triple-A for 33 games, he batted .317 with a .937 OPS.
The Marlins have liked Bryan Mitchell as a starter and Adam Warren as a reliever, but it will take more than that to get Ozuna because some talent evaluators believe he is on the cusp of a breakout season.
The Marlins could decide to improve their bargaining position for Ozuna by waiting for the top free agent outfielders -- Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Gordon, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton -- to sign and allow the trade market to heat up.
Despite a flat-out declaration from Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill that Jose Fernandez is "not available," rumors continue to persist that the team could be looking to trade the pitcher.
ESPN's Jayson Stark is reporting this morning that, in addition to the Yankees, Dodgers and Diamondbacks, a "mystery team" is in discussions with the Marlins for Fernandez (CBSsports.com's Jon Heyman reported that the Diamondbacks are now "out.")
My strong sense is that the Marlins do not intend to deal Fernandez -- at least not now. Or not unless some team is willing to meet the Marlins' pie-in-sky demands for the ace hurler.
But the Marlins also know that Fernandez will have to be traded at some point, whether it's now, the July 31 trade deadline, or next year.
In talking with teams, could the Marlins merely be gauging the market to assess Fernandez's actual trade value for when that time comes? I posed that thought to one baseball insider with knowledge of the Marlins' thinking and was told this: "You're right on it."
When Hill was asked about Fernandez last night, with owner Jeffrey Loria and president David Samson sitting within earshot, he was emphatic. "He's not available."
That doesn't mean the Marlins aren't listening to what teams have to offer, or that they would automatically reject a bonanza haul for Fernandez. That would be foolish. But if the Marlins were really entertaining a trade for the pitcher, it's more likely Hill would have couched his comments to give himself and the Marlins some leeway if and when they deal their star.