Detroit Tigers Should Target Marcell Ozuna In Free Agency


As the days left in the Detroit Tigers’ disappointing season start to dwindle, much has been made about what they can do in the offseason to return to form in 2016.

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Many, from pundits, to the fan-base, have debated everything from whether the Tigers should sign Johnny Cueto, to whether or not Yoenis Cespedes or Jason Heyward represents the better free agent signing.

However, on a team that could be haunted by other large, long-term contracts, it is important for the future of the team, that Al Avila, the Tigers’ new GM, start to look at adding young controllable talent, rather than continuing to handcuff the franchise with weighty deals.

One name that Detroit should consider is Marlins’ outfielder Marcell Ozuna.

In the wake of a 2015 season that was just as disappointing as the one in Detroit, Miami’s controversial owner, Jeffrey Loria, is reportedly displeased with Ozuna’s output, and is willing to deal him for pitching help.

Al Avila would be smart to capitalize on that frustration.

Now, Loria’s displeasure is not unwarranted. In 2015, Ozuna has played poorly, at best. In 114 games, the 24 year-old is hitting just .248 with 9 HRs and 40 RBI, to go along with a .298 OBP. However, he is just 24, (two years younger than Heyward) and he is under team control, through his arbitration  years, until 2020.

Beyond that, Ozuna’s 2014 season was spectacular. In 153 games he hit .269 with 23 HRs, and 85 RBIs, while posting a 4.4 WAR. And Ozuna wasn’t just a standout at the plate. According to Fangraphs, the Marlins’ center-fielder was the 8th best player at his position, based on defensive WAR. That puts him ahead of players like Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Trout, and Andrew McCutchen.

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Under Dave Dombrowski, Detroit showed interest in Miami’s crop of young outfielders, and it is likely safe to assume that Al Avila was involved in those discussions. If the Tigers’ new GM is smart, he will revisit that line of thinking.

Simply put, adding Ozuna would beef up a young Tigers core that includes Nick Castellanos, James McCann, J.D. Martinez, and Jose Iglesias, while also serving as a financially responsible move.

Offense is far from Detroit’s main concern, as they were hampered by a pitching staff that ranked 28th in the league, and acquiring Ozuna could provide Detroit with a means of adding young talent that doesn’t harness their ability to make moves in the future.

By saving money on acquiring Ozuna, rather than spending millions on Heyward, or Cespedes, the Tigers can work towards building a better bullpen by adding relievers like Darren O’Day or Tyler Clippard, or replenishing the starting rotation with arms like Scott Kazmir, or Jeff Samardzija.

At first glance, based on his 2015 numbers, it seems foolish to start Ozuna on a regular basis. However, based on the talent he flashed in 2014, the young outfielder is worth the risk.

And Al Avila needs to realize that.

Next: Ausmus returning in 2016