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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.