Cameron Maybin Trade Analysis
• In Maybin, 23, the Padres get a super-athletic player who has the most upside of any center fielder they employ save Donavan Tate, a fellow former top-10 draft pick who has yet to play a full season in Single-A. Yet the Marlins wouldn't have traded Maybin for Webb and Mujica if they believed he had a decent chance of becoming a star for them. He frustrated them with strikeout binges and dull defensive instincts. The Marlins do not have a stellar prospect to plug into center field.
Maybin doesn't need to become a star to represent an upgrade for the Padres. He is as fast or faster than Tony Gwynn Jr., a defensive stalwart who was San Diego's primary center fielder last year and now can slot as an extra outfielder. Scouts rate Gwynn far better at reading flyballs than Maybin; Maybin's hitting potential is far more exciting. The right-hander has a superb .393 on-base percentage and a .478 slugging percentage in 418 minor-league games. Across parts of four seasons with the Tigers and Marlins, Maybin was a below average hitter with a .313 OBP, a .380 slug rate and a 172 strikeouts in 610 plate appearances. He has 13 home runs and 19 stolen bases in 168 major league games. Maybin reputedly is a hard worker who caused the Marlins no problems. His salary will be near the major league minimum.
• The Marlins have several pieces in place as they build toward 2012, when they will move into a new ballpark. However, their bullpen was a liability last year. Enter right-handers Webb, 24, and Mujica, 26. They were middle relievers for San Diego's National League-best bullpen in 2010. Armed with a power sinker and a good slider, Webb had a 2.90 ERA in 59 innings. Mujica gave up too many home runs (14) but averaged more than a strikeout per inning and issued only six walks in 69.2 innings. Florida will give them both a chance to work out of the back of its bullpen. Webb's salary will be near the minimum. Mujica is first-time eligible for arbitration. The Marlins clearly believe Webb can evolve into a reliable setup man.
• Padres general manager Jed Hoyer is playing to an organizational strength. The Padres are adept at getting relief pitchers cheaply and developing them into solid, good, or even great producers for a low salary. They've done it repeatedly since moving into an extreme pitcher's ballpark in 2004. It makes sense for them to bank on their ability to do it again. (Whether Hoyer can do it remains to be seen; GM Kevin Towers, now in charge of the rival Diamondbacks, made all of those successful moves for relievers.) It's generally far more difficult to find a young center fielder with good upside, even a strikeout-prone longshot as raw as Maybin, than it is to find cheap relievers who have strong arms. Mujica, for example, was acquired for $20,000 after the Indians designated him for assignment. Webb was obtained with two other pitchers for reserve outfielder Scott Hairston in a pro-San Diego trade with the A's. In 2003, the Padres plucked future relief star Scott Linebrink off waivers from the Astros. They signed Akinori Otsuka, another set-up wizard to come, after no other major league club submitted a posting bid with his Japanese team.
• Even with this trade, the Padres are still likely to deal closer Heath Bell within the next nine months. His salary, which could go beyond $6 million, will eat up too much of a payroll that may not be much more than $40 million. They have two candidates to replace him, Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson. Ernesto Frieri, who had a 1.71 ERA for them in 33 games last year, can help to offset the loss of Webb and Mujica. Bear in mind, the Padres will continue to scout cheaply available relievers who may be out of minor league options with other clubs, or out of favor, then look to plug them into their pipeline. Bell was such a reliever four years ago, when Towers obtained him from the Mets.