The Marlins' All-Star outfielder again finds himself the subject of trade speculation at the General Managers Meetings in Arizona. But the Marlins are sending out a clear message: Teams interested should be prepared to pay a high price.
"As his name came up last year, you tell your counterparts, 'This is a talented young man.' We know he is," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill told reporters in Arizona. "So we're not going to sell him on the low, or trade him 20 cents on the dollar, because this is a premium position player with power and athleticism. I think he showed this year, this is who he is."
Ideally, the Marlins would like to retain Ozuna, and most of their core position players. But the team also is in the market for starting pitching. Even before the death of Jose Fernandez in a boating accident on Sept. 25, rotation depth was a priority. It's even more so now.
With a thin Minor League system, the Marlins don't have many trade pieces to acquire an established starter, so they may have to consider dealing from their strength -- their position players.
Ozuna, entering his first season being arbitration-eligible, may be the more logical trade commodity to acquire a starting pitcher.
Ozuna turns 26 on Saturday, and he is coming off a season in which he started in center field in the All-Star Game for the National League.
In 148 games, Ozuna had a slash line of .266/.321/.452 slash line, tying his career-high with 23 home runs while also driving in 76 runs.
Ozuna bounced back from a disappointing 2015, where he struggled and spent more than a month at Triple-A New Orleans. In 123 games with the Marlins, Ozuna had a .259/.308/.383 with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs.
"He had an off year in 2015, but it didn't change our evaluation of the player," Hill said. "I credit my peers for asking about him. But if you are coming and asking, I hope you're prepared to pay fair value."
"We're not trying to take off our team," Hill said. "We like our position-player core, and we'll put it up against anybody in the National League. Now, the goal is to find a way to fortify our pitching."
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.