Marcell Ozuna

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

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AP

New Cardinals OF Marcell Ozuna takes jab at A's during media event

While expressing his happiness to be with his new team, Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna took a swipe at the A’s during a media function in St. Louis on Sunday.

Ozuna’s name, you’ll remember, swirled in trade rumors earlier this offseason that he might be dealt from the Miami Marlins to Oakland. Instead, the two-time All-Star was traded to St. Louis, making him one of several big-name players Miami has shipped off as it looks to slash payroll.

While attending the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up event to preview this season, Ozuna was asked what it was like being dealt to a team that’s more focused on winning right away as opposed to the rebuilding Marlins.

“I feel happy about that,” Ozuna responded. “First thing when I heard they were trying to trade me to the Oakland A’s, I say … (long pause) Well, I say ‘God, please leave me over here.’ Then I heard they trade me to the Cardinals, I say ‘OK, thanks.’”

Ouch.

Well, it’s not the first time such an insult has been hurled the A’s way, whether directly or indirectly. Last winter, it came out that Matt Holliday — who spent part of 2009 with Oakland — had a no-trade clause included in his contract with the Yankees that prohibited him from being traded only to the A’s.

Is it surprising to hear Ozuna volunteer his thoughts about the A’s in a public forum? Perhaps.

Is it a shock that he’d feel that way in the first place? Definitely not.

It’s no secret the A’s reputation is one of a team that’s always looking to trade its best veteran players rather than spend the money to sign them long term. It’s also common knowledge that they play in an outdated ballpark that’s considered the worst in the majors.

No question, those are the dominant thoughts of players on the other 29 teams when they think of the A’s. And there’s no quick fix to that. National perception is tough to alter.

“Why doesn’t ownership just start spending more money on payroll?” you might ask. “That’s the best way to change perception.”

No arguments there, but we know from the past that isn’t going to happen. Clearly, majority owner John Fisher isn’t going to spend more freely on payroll — especially with the A’s being cut off from MLB’s revenue sharing system — unless he sees the potential for other forms of revenue to stream in.

It all points back to the critical need for the A’s to identify a ballpark site and begin construction on a new home. That will send a message around the majors that a plan is in motion, that better days are ahead.

Until then, the A’s can expect to absorb the occasional jab like that delivered by Ozuna. On the bright side for Oakland fans, they might have just identified Public Enemy No. 2, a player who can slot in right behind Holliday as their favorite opponent to vilify.

Could another Marlins outfielder be a better fit for Giants?

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USATSI

Could another Marlins outfielder be a better fit for Giants?

ORLANDO — The Giants had a trade in place for Giancarlo Stanton a couple weeks ago, so clearly the Marlins have found players in their system that they would like to deal for. But that doesn’t seem to be helping the front office now that Marcell Ozuna seems readily available. 

Ozuna is one of several outfielders the Giants have checked on in recent weeks in a bid to add athleticism and power to their lineup, but they don’t have high hopes. General manager Bobby Evans said the bigger field for Ozuna’s services “really negates anything” the Giants agreed to during the Stanton talks, and added that proposals went back to “square one.”

Per sources familiar with the earlier discussions, the Marlins — looking to offload about $250 million of Stanton’s deal — agreed to take back two prospects and a big league player with a salary the Giants needed to move to stay under or near the luxury tax line. It’s believed that big leaguer was Denard Span, and the prospects were not in the top five on the Giants’ list. 

But Ozuna would cost the Giants prospects that are much higher on their list, and if this deal comes down to prospects, the Giants will be outgunned. For that reason, the St. Louis Cardinals were the lobby favorites to land Ozuna at the winter meetings. 

Ozuna hit 37 homers and won a Gold Glove last season, so he fills every outfield need the Giants have. Christian Yelich would fill those needs too, but he’s not known to be available. It’s also unclear if Billy Hamilton truly is. The Giants checked in on Hamilton this week but there’s little traction in talks with the Reds, who would have to be overwhelmed to trade a popular player. The Giants have also spoken to the Brewers about their young outfielders, and there might be a better chance with that NL Central club, but nothing was imminent as of Tuesday. 

As for players who are already on the roster, Evans said the staff is confident that Austin Slater’s 2017 debut was no fluke. Slater will enter camp with a shot to win a fourth/fifth outfielder job, and perhaps more. The Giants believe he can handle all three outfield spots, but he seems ticketed for mostly right field work. 

Analysis: Odds of A's trading for Miami's Yelich or Ozuna

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USATSI

Analysis: Odds of A's trading for Miami's Yelich or Ozuna

Any time you hear of the A’s entering what looks to be a “quiet” offseason, be suspicious.

Rarely do they sit on their hands and do nothing. Even after an encouraging finish to the 2017 season, with the emergence of several prospects suggesting the team might lay low this winter and stay the course, there are signs that they could be open for serious business.

A report Wednesday from the San Francisco Chronicle suggested the A’s have interest in two of the Miami Marlins’ stud outfielders — Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich. The idea of acquiring either fuels the growing speculation that Oakland is considering trading Ryon Healy, which would allow Khris Davis to slide into the regular DH spot and make room to add a stronger defensive corner outfielder.

The power-hitting Ozuna, who turns 27 on Sunday, is a two-time All-Star who won a Gold Glove in left field this past season, and he’s under team control for two more seasons via arbitration. Yelich is under contract for the next four years at $43.25 million (plus a club option for 2022), a relative steal for a player who slashed .290/.373/.460 combined over the past two seasons and turns just 26 next month.

Given their lean payroll commitments right now, the A’s could absorb the contract of either. More importantly, both are young enough — and cost-controllable enough moving forward — to fit into Oakland’s current rebuilding plan.

So it all makes sense in theory. In reality, the odds of the A’s acquiring Yelich or Ozuna appear steep.

It’s no secret the Marlins are looking to shed salary and restock their farm system under new ownership. The factors that would make either player appeal to the A’s — youth and affordability — also make them appealing to many clubs who have ambitions for contending in 2018 and boast deep farm systems from which to deal. The competition will be fierce. Miami can ask for the moon and no doubt will.

This is where the A’s have to exercise judgement; weigh the pros and cons of a blockbuster deal to land either Ozuna or Yelich. The risk isn’t financial. It comes in the caliber of prospects Oakland would have to fork over. It’s hard to imagine the A’s parting with Matt Chapman, Matt Olson or other foundation pieces who have already shown they are major league contributors (with Healy an exception).

It stands to reason that in any potential deal, Miami would want a chunk of Oakland’s high-end pitching talent in the farm system. And the feeling here is that the A’s shouldn’t part with 6-foot-7 lefty A.J. Puk, their top pitching prospect. They better think long and hard before dealing other highly touted hurlers such as Logan Shore and Grant Holmes too.

The A’s have worked diligently in recent years to acquire the top arms in their farm system, and the past two seasons have shown just how fragile Oakland’s pitching depth can be due to injuries. As things stand in the organization, they can afford to part with some of their top position-player prospects more than their best young pitchers.

But it comes down to what the Marlins demand in return. Either of Miami’s terrific young outfielders would look great in green and gold. But the cost will be huge.

And if the A’s deem the price tag too high, they will pass. Given the encouraging direction they’re going with their current group, maintaining the status quo isn’t such a bad “Plan B” anyway.