By R.J. Anderson //
A day after the Florida Marlins traded Andrew Miller to the Boston Red Sox, the Fish shipped out the other big name from their ill-fated Miguel Cabrera trade, by sending Cameron Maybin to the San Diego Padres. (That leaves only Burke Badenhop remaining in the organization from that package and that’s probably a good thing, given how the others have played during their time in Florida.) The Marlins received two right-handed relievers in return for Maybin – Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. Both could be in line for some save opportunities if Florida decides to trade closer Leo Nunez.
Webb stands 6’6″ and features a mid-90s fastball. The prototypical closer image with a fierce slider that translates into wicked groundball rates (over 60% for his career), Webb is more than projection, as the arithmetic matches the physiology. Webb’s ERA sits at 3.19 through more than 80 career innings, while his peripherals remain steady with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 2-to-1. Part of Webb’s shine can be attributed to a microscopic home run rate in 2010 (0.15 per nine innings; or one in 59 innings). That will not continue in 2011, but a sub-4.00 ERA would not be out of line.
Meanwhile, Mujica’s inability to keep the ball in the park remains the only aspect separating him from prominence. Since the 2009 season started — coinciding with Mujica becoming a Friar — he has accumulated 163 innings, a 3.80 ERA, 148 strikeouts, 21 unintentional walks…and 28 home runs. His stuff misses bats and he controls it well. Whether the home runs are a short-term blemish or a permanent flaw is to be determined. Having the gopherball bug through more than 200 career innings (with most of that time coming in pitcher-friendly San Diego) suggests it’s probably not going away. Still, his numbers are not too different from those of the incumbent closer, Nunez:
For the Padres to part with two quality relievers with years of cost control left, they required a player with the potential of Maybin. The one attribute about Maybin that will continue to be repeated until the season gets underway is his age. He is only 23 years old despite having more than 600 career plate appearances in the bigs (and a .246/.313/.380 line). That in itself is pretty rare for center fielders. Take the top 10 center fielders during the 2010 season (as determined by FanGraphs’ WAR) and track them at age 23. Here’s what you’ll find:
Josh Hamilton – Not playing baseball due to substance abuse issues.
Andres Torres – In Double-A hitting .294/.391/.393 line.
Carlos Gonzalez – In his second season in the bigs, hitting .284/.353/.525 for Colorado.
Brett Gardner – Hitting .281/.369/.378 between the upper minors.
Angel Pagan – Hitting .271/.333/.395 in his first full season in Triple-A.
Chris Young – Hitting .237/.295/.467 in his first full season in the majors.
Michal Bourn – Getting his first cup of coffee after hitting .277/.356/.385 in the upper minors.
Marlon Byrd – In Double-A hitting .316/.386/.555.
Vernon Wells – First full season in the majors, hitting .275/.305/.457.
Austin Jackson – This season, first full in the majors, hitting .293/.345/.400
With that kind of history, Maybin has some cause for optimism. There is reason to believe he still possesses the tools that made prospect analysts go wild over his potential just three years ago, it’s just a matter of tapping into those tools. Regardless of his immense physical skills, though, Maybin must cut down on his whiffing. The driving force behind his awful line is not a lack of walks (nearly 8%) or success on balls in play (.334 batting average on batted balls) but rather, strikeouts. It’s hard for any player to fare well while striking out in nearly one-third of his career at-bats; particularly when that player hits the ball on the ground a lot, rather than hitting for a lot of power.
There’s an outside chance that the two relievers are more productive in fantasy than Maybin in 2011. There’s even an outside chance that Maybin is relegated to a bench role. It’s hard to see him not breaking camp with the Padres, though, as he is out of options (meaning he cannot be sent to the minors without passing through waivers) and the acquisition cost suggests there was a demand for Maybin on the trade market. At the very least, Maybin is the more intriguing long-term keeper if you’re in a perpetual league.