Re-Visiting the Cameron Maybin Trade

One year ago next week, the San Diego Padres acquired centerfielder Cameron Maybin from the Florida Marlins in exchange for a pair of relievers, Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb.

In dealing Maybin,  Florida marked the effective end of the trade they had completed three years prior, when they scored Maybin and Andrew Miller, Detroit’s top two prospects, as part of a five player haul from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for Miguel Cabrera and a pitcher who used to be Dontrelle Willis. The day before they sent Maybin to San Diego, the Fish had dealt Miller to the Red Sox.

There was little doubt before the Marlins pulled the plug on Miller and Maybin that the Tigers had won the trade. A year after parting ways with Maybin, there appears little doubt that the Fish were once again taken to the cleaners.

Take nothing away from Mujica and Webb; both hurlers turned in good seasons in the Marlin bullpen. But relievers are often times easily acquired and frequently interchangeable. While Mujica and Webb each posted solid ERAs (2.96 and 3.20, respectively), both pitchers also saw their walk rates rise while their strikeout rates dipped in 2011.

If you look at it strictly from a Padres perspective, making the Maybin trade was as close to a no-brainer as could be had. If for no other reason than their home ballpark, the Padres have a history of being able to scoop up pitchers on the cheap, who are simply looking to re-gain their lost value.

What’s more difficult to do is to find an elite-level centerfielder and it’s a task particularly necessary when your club is predicated on pitching and defense. Maybin, just 23 years old when the trade was consummated, had already played in parts of four major league seasons and had demonstrated all of the tools that had scouts drooling since the Tigers had used the tenth overall pick on him in 2005. What he hadn’t displayed, was consistency.

Maybin has always been regarded as a guy with all the tools. The problem was that because the Tigers rushed him to the big leagues before his 21st birthday, he wasn’t given the time to refine his offensive approach in the confines of the minor leagues. By the time he had spent three seasons with the Marlins, he was out of minor league options and the club decided it was better to get what they could for him in the trade market than to spend another season hoping Maybin could hone his skills at the major league level.

In San Diego, Maybin was afforded that chance and showed the improvement he didn’t with Florida.

Maybin showed an ability to get on base in the minor league, specifically be posting a walk rate consistently above 11%. While he has always been prone to strikeouts even in the minors, when facing major league pitching those problems were magnified and his walk rate also suffered. The result was a hitter who could routinely find the gaps, but didn’t make enough contact to utilize his speed.

This season, Maybin finally became a full-time major leaguer and he set career highs virtually across the board. Maybin was able to cut his strikeouts down to a more respectable 22% while his walk rate was stable at 7.7%. In Florida, Maybin accumulated about one full season’s worth of plate appearances over the course of three years. He collected 557 plate appearances in Florida versus 568 last season in San Diego. What is remarkable is that his slash line in San Diego was nearly identical to the numbers he produced with the Marlins. In Florida he posted a .257/.323/.391/.714 line and with the Padres it was .264/.323/.393/.716.

Looking only at the slash line, you’d assume that San Diego got the same player that Florida thought they were trading. When you look a bit deeper, however, you see an improved version, and one that figures to continue improving as Maybin enters his age-25 season. In a virtually identical number of at bats, Maybin cut his strikeouts down from 151 with the Marlins to 125 in San Diego. He also managed to out-slug his Marlin days, despite playing half his games in Petco Park. The biggest difference, however, came on the basepaths, where Maybin attempted 48 steals and was successful 40 times. He did all of this while seeing a 12 point drop in his BABiP.

Maybin may not ever become a perennial all-star or an MVP candidate, but he certainly has the potential to do so. His defense in centerfield has been tremendous and combined with his baserunning skills to produce a 4.7 WAR season. If he can continue to make improvements in his walk rate in particular, while even just maintaining his strikeout rate, The Padres will have stability in centerfield for a long time to come.

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Tags: Cameron Maybin San Diego Padres

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