Miami Marlins: Is the team trying to delay Marcell Ozuna’s Arbitration Clock?

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The Miami Marlins optioned center fielder Marcell Ozuna on July 5th, to Triple-A New Orleans to let him work on his game. Ozuna had been struggling for much of the season on offense, posting a .249/.301/.337 slash line in 322 plate appearances. 

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We are 20 days since the demotion for Ozuna and there is still no sight of 24-year old being called up any time soon. This despite Ozuna slashing .353/.389/.588 in 54 Triple-A plate appearances. He owns 6 doubles and 2 home runs, with an impressive .235 ISO, showing his missing power from the major leagues might just be back.

So then why is he still in Triple-A? Andy Slater, who has weekday radio show on 940-AM WINZ and iHeartRadio, speculates the Miami Marlins could be trying to manipulate Ozuna’s service time, to make sure he is not arbitration eligible after this season.

"There could be two reasons the Marlins haven’t called upon Ozuna again. The team may want him to continue to work out any kinks they feel are necessary before he rejoins the big-league club. The other reason may be the arbitration clock.Players need to be on a major-league roster just under three years (2 seasons plus 130 days) to begin the arbitration process, as explained by the website Fangraphs. Entering this season, Ozuna had one year and 153 days of service time. To reach arbitration status in 2016, Ozuna would need to be on the Marlins 25-man roster for about 149 days this baseball season, which began April 5 and ends October 4.Ozuna currently sits at two years plus 73 days of service time, according to my calculations. That number puts Ozuna about 57 days shy of qualifying for arbitration. Going into tonight’s contest at San Diego, the Marlins have 72 days remaining in their season (65 games, 7 days off). For Ozuna to qualify for the automatic, bigger paycheck next year, he’d have to be back with the team by August 8. It should also be noted, according to rules, if Ozuna was recalled within 20 days of being sent to Triple-A, he would have received credit for major-league service time even while in New Orleans."

This is something I’ve actually speculated in the past have read around the internet, but was not going to be something I wanted to accuse the team of doing, without anything background information. With Andy doing most of that background work, I can see how this could be possible, and I would not put it past owner Jeffrey Loria and the Marlins’ front office to be doing something like this.

Let’s not forget, if this is the Marlins goal, Boras is not going to take this lying down. A grievance could immediately be filed against the team, by both Boras and the Players Union.

The other day, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the Miami Marlins are “very much open” to the idea of trading Ozuna. This is not surprising, considering the team was upset with Ozuna earlier this year, as he came into the season out of shape.

Add on to the fact Ozuna is repped by super agent Scott Boras and they rejected an extension this off-season, it makes a perfect storm for the Miami Marlins to want to move on from their center fielder.

And even with Ozuna having a down season, the market for hitters, especially young hitters like Ozuna, has never been stronger.

A scout told Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal that “having a hitter is like having gold.”

So, if the Miami Marlins are truly ready to move on from Ozuna, like Heyman suggested, the team could probably walk away with a ransom, at this point.

The New York Mets are looking for hitting and dangling Zack Wheeler, while Ozuna would also be a fit in Cleveland, who can make Carlos Carrasco available for the right deal. Wheeler is currently out due to Tommy John Surgery, but should be back sometime in May or June next season.

Either of these guys would help the Miami Marlins in their quest to become contenders in 2016, even though it might hurt the overall offensive output.

Things could be heating up in Miami regards to center fielder Marcell Ozuna. What the franchise does with him over the course of the next 6 days and couple of weeks could farther determine if he has a long-term future in Miami.

Stay tuned.

Follow Marlin Maniac on Twitter @MarlinManiac for all your Miami Marlins news, opinion and analysis!

Next: Marlins Open to Moving Ozuna

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