During the Winter Meetings and prior to the Jason Heyward decision, Jed Hoyer said the Cubs would be linked to every available centerfielder. And it’s been reported the Cubs are still looking for someone to patrol center even with Heyward on board.
Theo Epstein indicated last week the Cubs would be willing to lose a little offense in center field if that meant a better defender at the position. Denard Span is the one free agent that has been linked rather heavily to the Cubs in recent weeks.
The front office appears to be looking into trading for a centerfielder, with Jake Marisnick (Astros), Carlos Gomez (Astros), Jackie Bradley Jr. (Red Sox), Brett Gardner (Yankees) and Ender Inciarte (Braves) among the players the Cubs have reportedly checked on.
The Cubs reportedly contacted the Diamondbacks about Inciarte before he was traded to the Braves. And the Cubs are one of as many as a dozen teams that are believed to have called John Coppolella after the Braves acquired Inciarte.
Bruce Levine reported the Cubs have shown interest in Marcell Ozuna. The addition of a centerfielder like Ozuna or Inciarte, according to Levine, would “make the Cubs’ outfield defense Gold Glove caliber at two positions.”
Marcell Ozuna played most center field for Miami last season. Ozuna lined up in center for 111 games and in right field 15 times. Ozuna can play all three outfield spots and has done so in the big leagues. Of the 343 games he’s played in the field in the majors, 284 of them have been in center field.
Ozuna’s numbers were down last year from his first full season in the big leagues in 2014. Ozuna hit .259/.308/.383 in 123 games with 27 doubles and 10 home runs for a .691 OPS in 2015. In his second year in the majors, Ozuna played in 153 games and batted .269/.317/.455 with 26 doubles, five triples and 23 home runs for a .772 OPS.
Ozuna is not arbitration eligible for the first time until next off-season and is under club control for the next four years. Ozuna becomes a free agent after the 2019 season.
Based on what Jerry Crasnick reported during the Winter Meetings, any team that acquires the 25-year old will have to send some serious talent to Miami. According to Crasnick, when the Marlins talked to the Royals, Mariners and Indians about Ozuna, the Fish asked for RHP Yordano Ventura from the Royals, RHP Taijuan Walker from the M’s and RHP Danny Salazar from the Indians.
Reports have suggested the Marlins are asking for impact starting pitching for Ozuna. Based on Crasnick’s information that is the case and it’s hard to see where the Cubs would match up for a deal with the Marlins for Ozuna.
The level of interest the Cubs have in Marcell Ozuna is unknown. It is good to see the Cubs connected to so many centerfielders. The front office has said every option is being explored. And every time a new name pops up, it just reinforces the Cubs are doing just what they said.