Miami outfielder Marcell Ozuna emerged Tuesday night as the latest trade target for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto in an ongoing roster overhaul.
Sources confirm the Mariners are trying to pry Ozuna, 25, away from the Marlins, who are shopping him in hopes of acquiring a salary-controllable starting pitcher.
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. Another source said “nothing is imminent at this point.”
As for Ozuna, he fits the profile of some other acquisitions since Dipoto became the Mariners’ GM in late September: an athletic player with tools coming off a disappointing season.
After a recent move to acquire outfielder Leonys Martin from Texas, Dipoto said: "He’s coming off of a down year, and frankly that’s when you acquire guys."
That describes Ozuna, who hit just 10 homers last season after producing 23 in 2014. He had more moderate declines in batting average (.269 to .259) and on-base percentage (.317 to .308).
Even so, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria appeared to sour on Ozuna, who was demoted to the minors for six weeks at mid-season after a 1-for-36 slump. He batted .278 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 44 games after returning.
While Ozuna played primarily center field for Miami, he would likely shift to right field for the Mariners in order to allow Martin to play center. Such a move would free Nelson Cruz to become a full-time designated hitter.
Elias, 27, was 5-8 last season with a 4.14 ERA in 22 games, including 20 starts. He also made 12 starts at Triple-A Tacoma after spending nearly all of 2014 in the big leagues.
The Mariners obtained Karns, 27, from Tampa Bay as part of a six-player trade on Nov. 5. He was 7-5 with a 3.67 ERA last season as a rookie.