What did the Marlins give up in Maybin?

Both Dave Cameron and friend of the Maniac Joe Pawlikowski had articles up on FanGraphs today regarding the Marlins’ recent trade activity. Sending Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin when both players were integral to the Miguel Cabrera trade had to feel bad for any Marlin fan, but it was a price that had to be paid given the Marlins’ current situation and the play of the two players.

Or was it necessary? While the Miller move was a no-brainer (Dustin Richardson appears to be about as good as Miller, except Miller was out of options and was heading into arbitration), both Cameron and Pawlikowski intimate in their articles that the Marlins are giving up on some decent potential and an acceptable major leaguer in Maybin. Here’s Cameron on the topic:

If this were Maybin’s true talent strikeout rate, I’d understand why the Marlins traded him – he’s unlikely to ever turn into more than what he is now with these contact problems. However, Maybin’s strikeout rate in Triple-A the last two years has been significantly lower – just 19.5% in 2009 and 18.5% this year. He had significant contact issues in the low minors, but has seemingly made some strides in that area, at least against minor league pitching.

If Maybin can get his whiff rate down to a more manageable 25 percent or so, then he’s a viable starting center fielder in the big leagues. At that point, he wouldn’t be much different of a player than B.J. Upton, for instance. Can he get there? Maybe, maybe not. But the Padres were wise to take a shot on him, as young, cheap, up-the-middle players with some offensive upside aren’t usually available for just bullpen help.

I get why the Marlins dumped him. It just seems a bit premature to give up on a guy really only needs to improve in one area to become a pretty nice piece for the future.

It’s an interesting take, and one that I can definitely understand. As we discussed before, Maybin needed to improve his strikeout rate to be an effective player. In a previous analysis on the subject, I found that Maybin’s strikeout rate would need to be at around 20-22% in order for him to reach around a league average wOBA (when accompanied by a 9.4% BB% and below average power). Cameron mentions a 25% K% for him to be a useful player, but my analysis shows that to put him at around a .310 wOBA. Of course, this presumes no further development on other aspects of the game, and you’d expect Maybin to maybe pick up a little pop as he ages.

That point is a fair one to bring up, but I’d lean on the side of the Marlins on this one. At this point, they had to know that Maybin’s primary problem was one of strikeouts, and they had to be working with him on improving in that area. If there was any party who knew more about Maybin’s strikeout issues, it would be the Marlins and their coaching staff. At some point, maybe the coaches approached the front office and said that Maybin just wasn’t going to correct his long swing and was going to struggle with strikeouts forever. How else could he assist the Fish?

Defense was questionable

Cameron alluded to the comparison with B.J. Upton of the Tampa Bay Rays. In theory, such a comparison would be apt, as Upton has similar strikeout issues (career K% 24.8%). However, aside from the fact that Upton has had good years at the plate before and has a plate discipline profile that I believe is more conducive of good play at the plate, I think Upton’s defense decently outstrips that of Maybin’s. Maybin’s best projection right now is at a .340 wOBA, despite what those strange CHONE/Bill James projections seem to think. At that kind of offensive performance, you would love a solid center field defender, but I doubt that Maybin reaches that mark for the next season or two. Much of his value is therefore going to come from his defense, and not many people are all that high on that part of his game.

All I have heard from the professional scouts are raving reviews for his defense, or at least his defense from a few years ago. However, Marlins fans have not been so kind to Maybin in their opinions of him. For two straight seasons now, Maybin has rated as a below average overall defender via the Fans Scouting Report (results shown on FanGraphs). From my personal view of him, he obviously has top-notch speed but gets some really bad breaks and taks bad routes ala the book on Jacoby Ellsbury. While the Fans of Tampa Bay love Upton’s defense, Maybin’s can hardly be considered comparable. Maybe that is a bit of small-sample judgment combined with non-professional scouting by us fans, but I can’t say I disagree with my fellow brethren. Maybin’s defense, at this point in his career, still leaves something to be desired, though it can be said that he has the tools (raw speed and supposedly a strong arm, though I’ve never seen it) to improve in the future. Maybe that was just a product of a lack of coaching from the organization or listening from Maybin.

Service time and the gap in center

This part was something both Cameron and Pawlikowski brought up. Here’s Pawlikowski’s basic take:

Not only is Maybin young, but he is also cost controlled. Heading into the 2010 season he had just 129 service days, and then didn’t spend the entire season on the active roster. There’s a chance he’ll attain Super-Two status after the 2011 season, but that’s no guarantee. If he doesn’t the deal works out even better for San Deigo. They’ll have acquired two very inexpensive years of a talented player, followed by three more expensive, but still cost-controlled, years.

I think this is an important part that simply cannot be overlooked. The only advantages Maybin has going for him heading into 2011 are his tools (at his age) and his pre-arbitration status. Yes, the Marlins would have had to keep him up in the majors all year since he is out of options, but the Fish basically had one more pre-arbitration year to hold onto Maybin and see what they could get out of him. If he faltered but still qualified for Super Two status and entered arbitration, the Fish would have let him go via a trade akin to the one they pulled with Miller. The question had to be whether the Marlins thought they were going to get anything out of him this year that would be of similar value to the two relievers they received.

Perhaps an equally important aspect, however, is who the Marlins have left over to fill the hole in center field. They might think Emilio Bonifacio or Chris Coghlan can slide in and play the position, but I have my doubts. If they struggle and Scott Cousins or Bryan Petersen cannot deliver, the Marlins just unnecessarily opened a gaping hole in center field in return for two relievers. Relievers are nice, especially ones like Ryan Webb who appear to have intimidating stuff, but they are still more fungible than center fielders. I think holding onto a guy who had an opportunity to be decent for the Marlins would have been a better call than to leave that spot frighteningly open while filling in your seventh inning relief situations.

Will they regret this?

Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, but it won’t really matter. The trade was done, and it has to be evaluated with regards to the current knowledge at hand. The Marlins internally must have felt that Maybin had little chance of improving in strikeouts (something at which I wouldn’t be terribly surprised) and thought the two relievers coming back would be enough to make up for it. I think that decision had something to do with his former top prospect status and the disappointing start to his career, but it also had to have something to do with how the Marlins have scouted out Maybin and projected him. It may also have had a lot to do with how the team reacted to having a terrible bullpen last year, maybe stretching for the extra relief help. I am sure plenty of factors went into the decision, but I doubt the Marlins came off all that behind overall. Maybin’s shot at success may be ultimately about as good as what the Marlins got out of the Padres, with an outside shot that the Padres flat out robbed us and equally outside shot that they get absolutely nothing out of Maybin. The timing may be off on the deal (the Fish could have afforded to wait and gotten a lot less), but in principle it seems like a fair offer.

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Tags: Cameron Maybin Miami Marlins San Diego Padres

  • Laurence

    The MARLINS gave up on the kid much too soon, and there isnt an analyst in the world who can wish that fact, away. The trade will some down to two questions that will probably be answered in the span of two more whole seasons..

    1)Unless his hitting mechanics were incredibly bad, how does one justify trading a potential 5-tooler, because he strikes out too much at barely 23 yrs of age?..that just seems silly to me. There are other “studs” playing right now, who have been more heralded than Maybin, but have struck out more or are projected to strike out more than him, Jayson Heyward is one of them, and he almost won rookie of the year, with 128 K’s in 143 games.

    2) Do the Marlins really think that Edward Mujica is going to be the kind of back of the bullpen guy that they really need?…his numbers here are VERY deceiving!…he didnt walk guys for the most part, but when hitters got to him, they usually hit the ball out…Im not talkin about doubles, singles or triples…Im talkin homeruns. Here in SD, when we saw him come into games, we would close our eyes and wish for the best.

    Webb is the surest thing to a solid set up guy/closer that I can think of right now….and all of his stuff moves. NOTHING he pitches is straight and all of his breakinng pitchers have extremely late movement, including his fastabll. But like Maybin, he is much too young to call a “guaranteed pay off”

    Lets get a grip here..

    whats getting lost in this equation of how qucikly the Fish wanted Maybin to progress is the fact that they’re moving into a brand new ballpark in 2012. And personally, I think what they would like to do is to have a ‘splashy acquisition’ in CF..someone older, maybe, who is already somewhat established.

    Add to the fact that Larry Beinfest isnt among the more patient GMs in the game, having gambled and traded the top overall pick in Adrian Gonzalez, in 2003, for a veteran closer in Ugeth Urbina, to help them get to the WS in 2003. Im still convinced to this day that if the Marlins had not made it to the WS that season, he would not have a job right now. And even tho they won it in 2003, there are STILL fans there in Florida who think that trading Adrian was a big mistake.

    When Adrian got here to SD, first of all, he wasnt even thought of as a guy who was gonna start because Ryan Klesko was the 1st baseman here at the time. If Ryan had not been injured, we dont know that Adrian wouldnt have been flipped yet again, in another trade. Only because the general consensus then, was the leftie hitters struggled in PETCO, BADLY.

    Given that fact and further proof of that by the decrease in power from Klesko and Giles, Adrian could very well have been traded again…even Kevin Towers, the GM then, said a cupla years after Adrian came to prominence that he didnt expect him to be very good because most leftie hitters in PETCO didnt do well.

    Saying all that to say,if the Padres took a gamble on the best draft pick of 2000 and benefitted from the production he has given us, the least that Florida could have done, given all the talent they’ve had come from their farm system, was to wait on Cameron Maybin a little while longer.

    Like a lot of teams, Im getting the feeling that the Marlins analysts and scouts are trying to diminish what Maybin really is, so that they dont have to face the music where it involves trading him too soon.

    • Michael Jong


      First off, welcome to Marlin Maniac!

      I’m not wishing anything away. I think the Marlins could have afforded to wait another season and continue to monitor Maybin’s progress. I’m a little disappointed that the deal only netted relievers in return. But look at it from the Marlins’ angle:

      1) There is a distinct possibility that Maybin’s swing and plate discipline is busted beyond repair. BP’s Kevin Goldstein mentioned that some scouts thought it could be fixed, but others thought that messing with the mechanics may knock out any power potential he may have. That was a comment made before the 2009 season, almost two years ago. His swing has always been thought of as long, and the Marlins have been trying to fix it. You have to believe that the Fish’s coaches have more knowledge on Maybin’s swing and strikeout issues than the rest of us, so I would prefer to defer to them rather than to my own scouting opinion.

      Also, your example of Heyward wasn’t the best choice. Take a look at their career K% in the minors:

      Maybin: 23.1%
      Heyward: 13.8%

      Heyward was younger and played less in the minors, but there were never any complaints about his strikeouts in the minors. When he reached the majors, his patient approach led to more strikeouts, of course. It’s a natural expectation from a player who moves from the minors to the majors. The difference is that Maybin has a less refined approach at the plate and has more of a strikeout problem. Combine that with a lack of power at the moment, and you can see why the Marlins were concerned that Maybin would never be all that productive.

      2) The relievers don’t have to be great, I suppose. Mujica seems like more of a throw-in, with Webb being the main target. I’m not terribly happy that we traded Maybin for relievers, but the team was fairly desperate for arms to help a poor bullpen last season.

      With regards to what the Marlins wanted, I wouldn’t want to make too many assumptions. I’m assuming you are commenting here as a Padres fan, as it sems you know them pretty well. The Marlins wanted Maybin to play well, but it seems they were not confident that would happen. However, the Fish have no current plans to make “big splashes” in either the trade or free agent market to fill the CF gap. They’ve already mentioned that they are going to try a number of in-house options for the position.

      Part of the reason the front office seems to lack patience is due to its strapped financial situation. The Marlins can only afford to give players a trial run through their pre-arbitration years. If they struggle during arbitration, the Fish would be spending money without getting much return. Because of that low budget, that’s not a luxury they can afford. Players need to develop quickly in this system or else they’ll get too expensive for the Marlins to afford. Maybin did have a year left before he possibly became a Super Two player, but the Fish might have thought that this was the best they could do given what he had already shown.

      I appreciate the comment though, as it’s always great to foster a healthy discussion. Thanks!

  • Laurence

    ***Part of the reason the front office seems to lack patience is due to its strapped financial situation. The Marlins can only afford to give players a trial run through their pre-arbitration years. If they struggle during arbitration, the Fish would be spending money without getting much return. Because of that low budget, that’s not a luxury they can afford. Players need to develop quickly in this system or else they’ll get too expensive for the Marlins to afford***

    we are going thru the same thing here in San Diego, with Chase Headley, who was deemed “The Jewel of the Franchise”, in the minors, but has played more like The Joke of the Franchise. Now he benefits from “Super Two Status” and is due something close to 2 million dollars. That money could and should go towards a little more starting pitching or infield help, but a guy who only hit 11 homers, but has 139 strikeouts to show for it and no idea of how to hit with RISP, is about to get paid and clog up the budget at the same time.

    So, I know a little something about what affordable talent should look like.

    It helps to get a little insight from a Marlins fan who knows more than I do about your coaching staff there, and what they look for from their prospects. I just happen to think they may have traded him a little soon, but we’ll see. And if the centerfield siutation there doesnt work out with Cohglan and whoever else they’re going to throw out there, you guys are kinda laying your head on the chopping block. But I could be totally wrong and either way, neither team gave up the world to get the guys they wanted.

    Good Luck in 2011…

    • Michael Jong


      Yes, I know that San Diego is tight on budget due to the weird ownership situation. You guys too will be working on a little less than usual; the Chase Headley situation in particular may be tricky.

      I think the Malins traded a season too early, but I doubt that Maybin will turn into a whole lot more. I don’t think he’ll ever be more than an average player, which is a good thing to have, but not something which the Marlins can wait two or three years for. It remains to be seen, but I think the move just now will turn out to be a neutral one in the years to come, and that’s probably what both teams felt (with SD banking on better upside).