Phillies Reportedly Interested in Marcell Ozuna

Christian Moreno of ESPN Deportes reported on Thursday that the Phillies have interest in trading for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna struggled in the first half of the season before being demoted to Triple-A New Orleans in early July.

There’s more to Ozuna’s demotion than performance. Team owner Jeffrey Loria didn’t want to play Ozuna due to playing time concerns, and former GM and manager Dan Jennings played Ozuna against Loria’s wishes, as USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale reported. That led to Jennings’ dismissal at the end of October.

Ozuna’s availability, then, is no surprise. He’s 25 years old and under team control through 2019. He broke out in 2014, hitting .269/.317/.455 with 26 doubles and 23 home runs. Both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference rate him as an above-average defender since he debuted in 2013, spending most of his time in center field. However, Ozuna could reliably fill a corner outfield role as well.

Ozuna, over 1,397 career plate appearances, has a slightly below-average walk rate (six percent) and a slightly above-average strikeout rate (about 24 percent) and his .151 isolated power is also right around the average for major league outfielders.

The Marlins are reportedly looking for market value for Ozuna, per MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. In particular, they’re looking for a “front-line starting pitcher”. (Also noteworthy: Frisaro’s report contradicts Nightengale’s regarding Jennings’ dismissal. However, the Marlins’ brass is notoriously stingy and speaks out of both sides of its mouth.) The free agent market currently has a number of attractive outfield options including Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Dexter Fowler, and Denard Span. If the Marlins shop Ozuna as a cheaper alternative, they may be able to get something close to what they want. But the longer the off-season goes on, as outfielder-hungry teams sate their needs, the less leverage the Marlins will have. The Phillies may be wise to wait it out.

As they stand now, the Phillies do not have a deficit of outfield depth. Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr have two spots spoken for at the major league level. In the minor league system, the Phillies have in their top-10 2015 first round pick Cornelius Randolph, Nick Williams (acquired in the Cole Hamels trade), and Roman Quinn. Darnell Sweeney, acquired in the Chase Utley trade, can also play outfield. Acquiring Ozuna should be considered a luxury and the Phillies should only pounce if they can drive the Marlins’ price down.

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Phillies Sign James Russell to a Minor League Contract

On Thursday, the Phillies signed lefty hurler James Russell to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Russell, 30 in January, struggled this past season, finishing with a 5.29 ERA and a 20/9 K/BB ratio in 34 innings. He was effective in the Cubs’ bullpen between 2012-14, however, compiling an aggregate 3.26 ERA. The Cubs traded him to the Braves at the trade deadline in 2014, and he re-signed with the Cubs as a free agent after the season.

Russell doesn’t miss many bats, owning a career strikeout rate of 17 percent along with a seven percent walk rate. He hasn’t particularly been effective at getting out lefties, as they have compiled a .689 OPS against him compared to the .800 of right-handers.

The Phillies, though, don’t have many lefty relievers. On the 40-man roster, only Elvis Araujo and Mario Hollands call the bullpen their home and throw from the left side. Hollands, however, underwent Tommy John surgery and won’t be ready for the start of the season. Joely Rodriguez moved back into Reading’s starting rotation during the season. The Phillies will likely sign another southpaw or two to compete with Russell for a bullpen spot during spring training.

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12 comments

  1. Romus

    November 14, 2015 09:37 AM

    Ozuna from a defensive side was in the bottom third of all MLB CFers according to SABR with a minus3.6 grading. Have to assume the Phillies interest would be in him as a corner OFer. IMO replacing Herrera with Ozuna in CF, would at first glance, be a foolish defensive move since Herrera graded out fairly SDI high for CFers in the NL.
    Agree……wait the Marlins out and bargain at a lower price.

    • Bubba0101

      November 14, 2015 09:55 AM

      If we can get him for the right deal then absolutely go for it, but there’s zero need to overpay for a guy who will play a corner outfield spot at replacement level in the field. We can go spend money over the next few years and find that same guy without giving up significant prospects like we will probably have to do to trade for Ozuna.

      • Romus

        November 14, 2015 01:08 PM

        Interestingly, Ozuna’s seem to have his better games at CBP vs the Phillies.
        And the Marlins indicate they want front-line starting pitching’.
        Nola , and prospects Thompson and Eflin are probably in the ‘Elliot Ness’ category….and two pitchers, SSS, that did well vs the Marlins were Morgan and Eickhoff.
        I could envision the Phillies offering Morgan straight-up.
        Both Morgan and Ozuna need to rebound…one from a down year and another to continue to prove the injury is behind him

      • Andrew R.

        November 14, 2015 01:08 PM

        Come on, Bubba. In 2014 he was worth 4.5 WAR. Last year he took a step back but he will still only be 25. He’s still young and learning. He also plays in a pitcher’s park, for a shitty organization. I doubt the Phillies will overpay for him. That would be a sign of desperation. We will be patient and grab him if the price is right.

      • Bubba0101

        November 14, 2015 07:14 PM

        I think I’m making the same point. I don’t see the Marlins letting him go for the deal we want. We won’t trade any of our top ten prospects and they won’t settle for less.

      • Romus

        November 15, 2015 01:04 PM

        Bubba……after looking more into Ozuna’s metrics, I must have my head examined to think the Phillies should offer Morgan…..I would offer Asher period. Ozuna and Dom Brown are building carer on an outlier season…Brown’s 2013 oWAR 3.3 and Ozuna 2014 ,oWAR 3.4. ozuna’s krate over 20% and even 27& in his best season is poor and his BB rate of less then 7% is also below par. His wOBA is below average.
        His defense also mirrors Dom Brown’s defense.
        For all intents and purpose he would seem to be the next version of Dom Brown but as a right handed bat.

  2. Andreas

    November 14, 2015 11:40 AM

    Not all that much important maybe: I really thought you guys here at Crashburn Alley are smarter than those at the ESPN site. But nevertheless the link to Mr. Dan Jennings goes to the Baseball Reference page of the pitcher of the very same name who seems to be active as a pitcher for teh ChiSox.
    While I am very much aware that nowadays there is a whole lot going on which would have been just impossible in my days I, serving two clubs in two different positions at the same time seems to me aomewhat unlikely.

    • Bill Baer

      November 14, 2015 01:58 PM

      We’re not individually linking each player; we’re using an automatic linker from Baseball Reference. If there are multiple players with the same name, I’ve noticed it tends to default to the older player. In the case of front office personnel, it obviously won’t go to a page for that person.

  3. Gil

    November 14, 2015 01:19 PM

    Ozuna could be an interesting addition to a Phillies team that doesn’t currently have a surplus of proven outfielders. They have interesting young players who we should all look forward to seeing next year and beyond, yet it remains unclear whether Herrera will regress and whether Altherr or Sweeney will hit enough to stick as everyday players. Everybody wants to see Williams and Quinn arrive, produce alongside a productive Herrera and Altherr, and give the Phillies the nice problem of having more viable starting outfielder candidates than available positions, but that might not happen. Heck, maybe Alfaro will be their starting right fielder in a couple years. That’s a neat dream.

    Enticing as it is to dream that plans will unfold and young players develop and deliver to their highest potential in currently projected roles next season (or ever), it is smart to add a young, talented, controllable and proven option as Ozuna to the roster. His average to possibly above average defense and ISO (which would almost certainly improve playing 81 games at CBP) would immediately improve the 2016 Phillies, and Ozuna’s potential upside and low cost should make him worthy of Klentak’s and MacPhail’s most serious consideration.

    This could mean trading one or more of the Phillies current outfielders. Having the most value of the Phillies current crop of outfielders, Herrera and one or two pitching prospects (Pivetta? Asher? Buchanan?), and perhaps one of their young middle infield prospects might be enough to haul in Ozuna if the Phillies are patient. However unlikely and arguably unwise, the Phillies might consider trading Herrera for Ozuna or in an entirely different deal before his BABIP comes down next season. Should Herrera depart and Ozuna arrive via trade, the Phillies could possibly use Altherr (Quinn or Williams) in CF, Ozuna and Williams (or Altherr) in the corners by the end of next season.

    Another right-handed outfielder would probably unfortunately also mean Frencouer isn’t resigned. If they trade for Ozuna and don’t sign a left-handed hitting outfielder for an everyday or platoon role before the start of next season, in this hypothetical scenario, the Phillies might determine Asche’s future role by giving him an opportunity to play regularly ahead of Quinn’s and Williams’s possible arrivals. It would be great (but unlikely) if player development leads to an across-the-board productive starting outfield that includes Asche, Altherr, Herrera, Williams or Quinn by the end of next season.

    While Klentak and MacPhail have indicated that 2016 is an observational, learning/proving year (meaning it’ll be ok with the FO if the team loses 90 games) , they have both also indicated willingness to consider deals that will improve the organization in the short and long term. Being new to the organization, it’s tough to guess how the FO will operate. “Grow the arms, buy the bats”, MacPhail has said, and this type of trade seems to kinda fit his preference. We know that Klentak will not announce that the Phillies have signed Heyward or Greinke, but might he carry off a controversial trade because his scouting reports and statistical data support the Phillies acquiring Ozuna via trade.

    Ozuna is an affordable, talented player who would, as Dom Brown’s replacement, automatically make the Phillies better, and who also has the potential to be a quality core or trade piece – either of which would improve the organization. He might be a headcase who fails miserably, but my two cents are that the Phillies should make a deal if there is a good deal to be made.

    • Steve

      November 14, 2015 06:11 PM

      The marlins will want a larger return than i would want the Phillies to give up. I could see them asking for Thompson or Kilome along with one other prospect.
      I would gladly do Morgan for Ozuna, but i think they could find better value elsewhere.
      I see no point in dealing Herrera for Ozuna.

  4. Sean fitzpatrick

    November 21, 2015 07:46 PM

    Any thoughts on tony sipp? Think he would help the pen from the left side and may not be that costly.

  5. Sean fitzpatrick

    November 21, 2015 07:49 PM

    giles to Astros if chapman not obtained. Just a gut feel.

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