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Acquired OF-R Cameron Maybin from Detroit Tigers in exchange for RHP Victor Alcantara. [11/4]

The secret to watching Cameron Maybin is to let go of your imagination. Perhaps you remember him as a prospect in Detroit’s system, or in the first few years of his career in Florida. During those years, he was a prospect with athleticism and tools for days, something similar to the ideal of Byron Buxton or Trea Turner or any other astonishing center fielder brimming with potential. Our imaginations burst with the possibilities of him running down impossible liners and hitting impossible homers.

Since he couldn’t live up to our imaginations, he wound up in San Diego–baseball stasis. He thrived there before injury, wandered off to Atlanta and Detroit as the player who was acquired for little but provided much, and now he’s off to Los Angeles, finally a media market, location, and color scheme worthy of his unbelievable potential. But we have to let go of our imaginations and assess Maybin for what he is: an above-average outfielder with consistent injury issues who almost always is acquired for far less value than he provides. He is walking arbitrage, and the Angels–a team in desperate need of a win or two–just picked him up.

Not a platoon player, Maybin has a better career batting line against right-handers than lefties, and last season put up nearly identical rate stats against both types of pitching: .384 OBP and .418 SLG against lefties, .383 OBP and .418 SLG against righties. In center field for the Tigers, he posted the best offensive season of his career while proving that his defense is greatly diminished from his past performance, and better suited to a corner. His 2016 bat could play at a corner, but it seems likely that he’ll regress to something of a league-average hitter. And that’s fine, if we don’t allow ourselves to remember the over-talented young player he once was.

The Angels have done this dance before: acquire a new veteran left fielder who’s supposed to be just fine for pennies on the dollar, before watching him crash and burn, or at least be incredibly overshadowed by Mike Trout. Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, Shane Victorino, Daniel Nava. It’s easy to imagine a world in which Maybin falls into that category. Then again, we’re supposed to let go of our imaginations here. The 29-year-old Maybin had a career year on the strength of a) his wicked-high BABIP, and b) an improved ability to take a walk. There isn’t much in his profile to expect the BABIP to be sustainable, but a slightly improved approach could lead to outcomes very similar to his 2015 season, if not his 2016. Without our imaginations, Maybin projects to be something close to a league-average left fielder for a team that desperately needs one. That’s real, and it’s just fine. —Bryan Grosnick

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Claimed OF-R Rymer Liriano off waivers from Milwaukee Brewers. [10/28]

Spring training was not kind to Liriano, who had a chance to finally break through after failed starts in the Padres’ organization. With a Swiss cheese depth chart in the outfield, the Brewers picked him up for a song, only to see him sidelined after a horrifying accident and subsequent concussion. Now he’ll hopefully see the field again for the White Sox, who have a nutty, hole-filled outfield of their own around Melky Cabrera and Adam Eaton.

Going into his age-26 season, there’s still a chance he could leverage some of the power and overall offensive ability he flashed as a prospect–maybe he ends up as a healthy platoon bat in the outfield, maybe we’re looking at another Avisail Garcia Experience? First he has to get back on the field and playing regularly–the first is no sure thing, and the second is hardly a definite even in Chicago’s mismatched outfield. —Bryan Grosnick

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Acquired RHP Victor Alcantara from Los Angeles Angels in exchange for OF-R Cameron Maybin. [11/4]

The Angels may have parted with a top-10 prospect to acquire Cameron Maybin, but that speaks more to the state of their farm system—think The Writer and The Professor entering The Zone in Stalker—than to Alcantara’s upside. He’s a prospect to be sure—his fastball has bumped 98 and his 90 mph slider will flash plus—but once you see his max effort mechanics, you won’t be surprised to learn that he’s struggled with his control as a starter in the minors. His ultimate home is in the pen, and Alcantara could make an major-league impact for Detroit as soon as 2017, while I will have to dig a bit deeper to fill out that Angels Top 10 list. —Jeffrey Paternostro

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Acquired LHP John Lamb from Cincinnati Reds in exchange for cash considerations. [11/2]

Lamb is, quite unfortunately, a personification of “it wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.” As such, it’s only natural that he’s now found his way to the Rays. By now you might’ve heard the backstory: a once-promising high-end prospect with plus velocity coming from the left side, Lamb was part of one of the greatest farm systems in history with the Royals. Life happens, Lamb needed a zipper for his elbow, and he dropped from top-20 prospect to afterthought with a quickness.

In 2015, he pitched awfully well for the Royals’ Omaha club, which allowed the team to deal him as part of a package for Johnny Cueto near the trade deadline. Lamb looked pretty great, posting a 3.98 DRA and a strikeout rate north of 26 percent for the Reds in his first taste of MLB action. All of a sudden, he looked like he might have a future in a rotation, albeit Cincinnati’s. Instead of starting off 2016 with a bang, it was time for another whimper. Lamb had an offseason back surgery and started the year on the DL.

When he made it back, he was ineffective–the strikeout rate never bounced back and his velo was down from his 2015 season. Optioned to Triple-A in July, Lamb went from being one of my sleeper Rookie of the Year picks to just another 5.00+ ERA starter for Louisville. Out of options and recovering from yet another back surgery, the Reds DFA’ed him about a week ago, then sold him to the Rays for a song. So here we go again. We’re ready for the third act of Lamb’s career. But the real question is what kind of play are we watching? Is it a terrible off-off-Broadway musical? Because, if so, then there’s no third act coming, and we’re left confused, wondering how things ever went so wrong and if we can get our money back. Or is it a classic mid-career Shakespearean work, where there are five acts and we’re just getting into the meat of our story?

Given what we know about his history of injury and his new pitching approach, it seems like a longshot for Lamb to fully recover and emerge–again!–as a moderately effective starting pitcher. Then again, the Rays managed to acquire Mike Montgomery, Lamb’s fellow failed southpaw Royals hyper-prospect, and rehabilitate his value enough so that he got the final out of the Cubs’ histrionic, historic World Series win. Maybe spring training, maybe Durham, maybe Tampa, maybe the bullpen, maybe Korea? Here we go again. Here we go again. —Bryan Grosnick

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Signed RHP Josh Johnson to a minor-league contract. [11/1]

Call me X-Files, because I want to believe. I want to think that an ace–a real, live, flame-throwing right-hander–can take the ball on a given day and say, “Hey, Skip. I’ve got this” despite wind or rain or blood or pain and throw six strong. I want to believe that with enough hard work and dedication and the right knowledge we can fix anything, do anything, become anything. I want to believe, so when I hear about Josh Johnson signing a minor-league deal despite two (maybe three) Tommy John surgeries and one single batter faced in High-A since 2013, I want to believe he can rise to the top of his field again.

But the realist in me says that the odds are so slim, they’re almost insignificant. According to Tommy John specialist Jon Roegele, there’s only one player who’s ever had three TJ surgeries that we know of, and he hasn’t exactly been the model of a comeback kid.

Jonny Venters tore his UCL again this season, a one-man wrecking crew on cadaver ligaments. Johnson is a cipher three years out from his aborted stint in Toronto’s rotation. So it’s on to the Giants, a team with no reputation for rebuilding the careers of tortured starting pitchers. Of course, it only takes one success to build that reputation, and San Francisco isn’t calling on the big righty to fill any particular void. He’s a wild card flyer coming in on a minor-league deal. Though the priors put his chance of reclaiming his ace-dom somewhere close to Evan McMullin winning the U.S. presidency, I want to believe. The Giants want to believe, too. So we’ll keep doing this–signing and believing–until he can’t pitch any more. —Bryan Grosnick

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