Cameron Maybin trade a bigger gamble for Marlins than Padres

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Constricted by a payroll that’s barely a third of that of division leader Philadelphia, the Florida Marlins should be rolling the dice on high-upside players like Cameron Maybin.  Instead, they chose Saturday to give up on the 23-year-old center fielder, sending him to San Diego for a pair of setup men in Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica.

For as long as he’s been around, Maybin is still a pup, one who has hit .325/.401/.477 in 428 Triple-A at-bats.  He’s a career .306/.393/.478 hitter in the minors.  There’s no doubt he’s struggled in the majors, but some of that may have been the result of the Marlins trying to force him into a top-of-the-order role he still wasn’t ready for.  Maybin hit .257/.323/.391 in 499 at-bats in his three seasons with Florida.  He came in at .234/.302/.361 in 291 at-bats in 2010.

The relievers the Marlins are getting back are hardly worthless.   Webb, 25, has a power sinker that makes him look like a closer on his best days.  He’s my choice to be the team’s best reliever next year.  I’m not so high on Mujica, a modest flyball pitcher who has given up 28 homers in 163 1/3 innings the last two years despite pitching half of his games in Petco Park.  He has terrific control, and he should be a fine innings eater in the middle of the pen.  However, his numbers will likely suffer out of San Diego.

This just seems like a backwards trade.   The team that finished two games out of the postseason last year is the one that should be giving up on a youngster in exchange for solidifying the bullpen.  Instead, that’s what the team that finished 18 games out of first place is attempting to do.

And it’s not as though the Marlins have a replacement for Maybin ready to step in.   The other player they used in center field last year, Cody Ross, was given away to the Giants and apparently did some cool stuff in the postseason.  Emilio Bonifacio could handle the position defensively, but he’s a big liability in anything more than a utility role.  Maybe the Marlins will get a young center fielder back in a Dan Uggla or Ricky Nolasco trade.  Alternatively, they could see what the A’s want for Rajai Davis or Ryan Sweeney.

Maybin’s arrival in San Diego could result in Tony Gwynn Jr.’s exit.  Gwynn is an excellent defender in center field, but he doesn’t really have the bat to be of any real use off the bench.  Maybin will get every chance to start for San Diego, but the club should hang on to Chris Denorfia as a fallback.

The Padres will plug their bullpen holes easily enough, so there isn’t a lot of downside for them here.   With his quality glove and pop at the plate, Maybin remains a great bet to have a decent career as a regular even if he never truly fulfills his potential.   He’s an easy upgrade over Gwynn, and the Padres were able to retain their financial flexibility in getting him.  Score one for GM Jed Hoyer.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.