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Who is Marcell Ozuna? Examing the reported Mariners trade target

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Dipoto plans to build his version of the Seattle Mariners around run prevention. That much has been made clear on multiple occasions. But what remains unclear is how Dipoto plans to take this version of the Mariners and make it into that version of the Mariners. Because right now, those are two different things.

Take a look around the roster—or really, the diamond. If you're realistic, the Mariners have two players who are clearly above-average defenders. Those would be Kyle Seager and Leonys Martin. Now, having an elite defensive centerfielder provides a big boost, but I'm not sure having him flanked by Seth Smith and Nelson Cruz gives you the run-preventing outfield unit you're looking for. Actually, I am. And it doesn't.

This intro isn't all to say Dipoto's been pulling the wool over our eyes, or anything close to that. More-so, the point should be clear: there's still work to be done. And Jerry Dipoto's doing it.

Reports came in last night, starting first from Jerry Crasnick before others weighed in, that the Mariners were working on a trade for Marcell Ozuna. Let's see if we can encapsulate it as best we can.

The News Tribune's Bob Dutton confirmed the initial reporting work and bookended the evening with his story on the matter, which included the following:

The Mariners are believed to be offering either left-hander Roenis Elias or recently-obtained righty Nathan Karns in return. Nether Elias nor Karns — or Ozuna, for that matter — are yet eligible for salary arbitration.

Some reports suggest any potential deal could expand to include multiple players from each club. One source characterized the talks as "fluid" in part because the Marlins are believed to still be seeking offers from other clubs.

An MLB.com report suggested the Marlins might want right-hander Taijuan Walker, who also isn’t yet eligible for arbitration. But the Mariners, even to be tempted, would likely require a major return to deal Walker.

And then this today:

So that's where we are. Marcell Ozuna has long been reported to be available, so his name has been brought up frequently by fans who would like their teams to improve—so, yeah, lots of people. That much I knew. How would he improve these teams? That I knew less about. So, for those who don't know much about Ozuna, let's take a look.

Marcell Ozuna is a 25-year-old outfielder who's spent parts of three seasons in the majors with the Miami Marlins. Sandwiched between a decent-but-not-spectactular debut half-season in 2013 and a tumultuous 2015, Ozuna put up an über-impressive 3.7-fWAR, 115 wRC+, 23-homer season in 2014.

Ozuna doesn't have the typical offensive profile you'd expect to see from a Dipoto target, that much has been pointed out quite a bit on Twitter. During the season that built up his name to where it is, he struck out in 26.8 percent of his plate appearances. That was a career-high, and that's going to be part of his game. He doesn't walk much, either, so don't expect to see that nice .350 OBP. The power's there, and that's a big part of the draw—but strikeouts and dingers weren't supposed to be part of the Dipoto plan, right?

Well, Leonys Martin does one of those things, and not the good thing. But he does play defense. And Marcell Ozuna plays defense.

If you've been listening to the podcast much at all lately, you've heard me say on multiple occasions I wouldn't be surprised to see the Mariners load up on outfielders who were good enough defensively to play center—and sticking one or two of them in a corner. That'd be the approach with Ozuna.

Ozuna manages to be average in center, and has played the vast majority of his defensive innings there. Thing is, when you take an average defensive center fielder and move him to a corner, that defense plays up. Way up.

The sample is relatively small, just 460.1 career innings in right field compared to 2984.2 innings in center, but what it shows is worth noting. These things do fluctuate, but when Marcell Ozuna has played the position you'd expect him to play for the Seattle Mariners (again, RF), he has a UZR/150 of 22.7. If you're looking for some context here, on just what that level of defense looks like, let me give you a look at the 2015 UZR/150 leaderboard for right fielders. No, seriously. Look at it.

Yeah. That guy.

When Marcell Ozuna has played right field in his career, he grades out as 2015 Jason Heyward.

Again, these things fluctuate. You want to use a larger sample. Defensive metrics aren't perfect. But the concept is simple, take a decent center fielder and move him to a corner and you will get a very good defensive corner outfielder.

So why do the Marlins want to trade him?

Crasnick put it somewhat clearly:

So why doesn't Loria like him? I'm moving quickly and it's possible I egregiously missed something, but it appears to be based around tumult over issues with service time. See Ozuna was sent down to triple-A midway through 2015, in the middle of some pretty heavy struggles.

He started off the season alright, and was running a decent 104 wRC+ through June 12th. But that's when the aforementioned struggles began. From then through his July 5th demotion, he ran a horrid .125 /.160/.153 triple-slash and -20 wRC+.

Ozuna raked in New Orleans and it got to the point, when the Marlins offense struggled, agent Scott Boras called the Marlins out as he believed they were holding him down there for service time issues—to prevent him from reaching Super Two status and getting to arbitration early. He'd end up missing out on eligibility by only about a week.

Upon returning, Ozuna called his time in the minors "like a jail." Also upon returning, he became basically his great 2014 self.

And that, finally, is where we are. I'm an optimist by nature so you're bound to get a somewhat slanted view of Ozuna's outlook.

Also, because Dipoto's told us what he's going for, you can see why he fits. Dipoto said he wants run prevention, this is run prevention. Dipoto said getting guys off down years is the time to get them, and this is a guy off a down year. Dipoto said he won't play at the top of the free agent food chain, and this might be a way to get a guy who plays plus-plus corner defense with maybe a 115-120wRC+ bat without doing so.

Now, the cost is the question. And it's a question I don't want to answer. Just, not right now.

Let's watch some highlights instead, shall we?