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March 5, 2012

Transaction Analysis

No Mayday for Maybin

by R.J. Anderson

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SAN DIEGO PADRES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Re-signed CF-R Cameron Maybin to a five-year contract worth $25 million guaranteed with a club option for 2017 worth $9 million. [3/3]

This game works in funny ways. Maybin entered the 2011 season as an enigma with his third team in five years. Still blessed with outstanding tools, the question was whether those physical attributes would turn into results. Maybin’s tools led to better production in 2011 and rewarded the Padres for their buy-low gambit. In return, the Padres rewarded Maybin’s breakthrough with an extension that buys out his arbitration years and potentially two free-agent years.

While Maybin’s raw line (.264/.323/.393) is unimpressive, it serves as a reminder that context is crucial. As a center fielder playing in a pitcher’s park, Maybin’s offensive expectations are lower than normal. Yet, once park factors are considered and adjustments are made, it turns out that Maybin finished with a .267 True Average—a point better than the league-average center fielder. Add in Maybin’s plus fielding and plus-plus baserunning—during the run of play as well as 40 of 48 on stolen-base attempts—and he profiles as an above-average ballplayer.

Part of Maybin’s improvement stems from a reduction in strikeouts. Though he carried a 28 percent rate going into the season, the right-handed hitter fanned in just 22 percent of his plate appearances in 2011. The fewer outs Maybin records without making the defense work the better, given that he has shown the ability to turn more than 30 percent of his balls in play into hits. That Maybin cut down on his strikeouts while maintaining a similar walk rate and power production is encouraging and could speak to an improvement in pitch recognition.

MLB.com’s Corey Brock noted that Maybin’s deal is similar to the one Chris Young signed in April 2008, also governed out by Josh Byrnes. The likenesses are there beyond position, money, and general managers, as the two shared an age and had comparable offensive play (Young had a career 87 adjusted-OPS, Maybin is at 92). The big difference is styles of play; Young’s game is based around power, while Maybin’s is predicated on speed.

And how about Byrnes, anyway? His first offseason running the Padres concludes with extending Maybin after he traded away Mat Latos and Anthony Rizzo, and acquired Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Yasmani Grandal, Andrew Cashner, and Huston Street, amongst others. Byrnes did show Brock that he knows the ins and outs about locking up young players:

"I think these contracts make a lot of sense. The first part is having talent and guys you consider core players," Byrnes said on Saturday. "You want to lock them in. It's a good statement. But obviously we need to do more than this. Find the right talent and try to lock them up.

"I do believe in the concept. It's one of those win-win contract models."

Byrnes is working with a tight budget as he attempts to rebuild the major-league roster. It isn’t all bad, though; Byrnes will have six of the top 70 picks in June’s draft to go with perhaps the game’s best farm system. Oh, and he just locked up the Padres’ finest asset to a team-friendly contract that runs through the 2017 season. Yeah, things just might be okay in San Diego. 

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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