Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cameron Maybin to the Padres

On Saturday last the Padres acquired Cameron Maybin from Florida for "Home Run Ed" Mujica and Ryan Webb.  You may have seen this.

The first question I asked myself was why did the Padres trade some of their pitching depth for a guy at a position...where they have a lot of depth already?  So I took a look at some numbers.

Maybin has played most of his career, and all his time with Florida, as a centerfielder.  It's reasonable to expect the Padres plan to line him up in center for 2011.  That means Tony Gwynn Jr, Will Venable, and Chris Denorfia are probably looking for another position to play.  How good a CF is Maybin?  Well:

  • By UZR/150 (fangraphs):  -4.4 (2010), 13,5 (2009).  He played 8 games in 2008 and 15 games in 2007, so too small a sample size to use.
  • By Dewan plus/minus:  -7 (2010), +6 (2009).
  • By Range factor/9 (baseball reference):  3.11 (2010), 2.70 (2009).  League average was 2.59 and 2.60 respectively.
Tony Gwynn?
  • UZR/150:  32.9, 14.4
  • Dewan:  +23, +19
  • Range Factor/9:  2.12, 3.03.
Venable has played less than 30 games in center each of the last 3 seasons, so not much data to go on there.  Denorfia has played only 1 season with the Padres, and had 50 games in CF, but his UZR/150 is -15.7.  Remember that he and Venable were substitutes after Gwynn Jr got hurt, so really this is about Maybin and Gwynn.

Based on the defensive numbers above I would argue Gwynn Jr is a better defensive CF than Maybin.  Only Range Factor/9 favors Maybin, which interestingly enough was quoted in the SDUT article announcing Maybin's acquisition:

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Maybin last season had the highest range factor of any National League center fielder who played at least 70 games. Maybin had a 3.10 score per nine innings. By comparison, Tony Gwynn had a 2.12 score.
Was the trade about improving the offense?  Doubtful.  For the 2010 season, Maybin's .234/.302/.361 (.299 wOBA) line was not much better than Gwynn Jr's .204/.304/.287 (.276 wOBA).  I thought perhaps Maybin would be the leadoff hitter the Padres need to find, but based on that OBP he is no improvement at all.

Over 610 PA Maybin has posted a .246/.313/.380.  Over 1054 PA Gwynn Jr has .244/.323/.314.  We can say Maybin has more power based on the slugging percentage, but otherwise they are the same hitter.  So this isn't about the offense.

Was the trade be about salary?  Maybin has just over one year major league service time (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts and my extrapolation), and Gwynn Jr has just over 3.  Again according to Cot's, both are arbitration eligible for 2011 (note:  I may be reading the data on Cot's wrong, so apologies if I have indeed misinterpreted it).  I don't understand how Maybin is arbitration eligible with only 1 year service time, but that is what the data says.

Based on the arbitration status for both, this probably isn't about the salary.  Both players have above-average gloves but below-average bats, so their arbitration cases would be very similar.

Maybin is 4+ years younger than Gwynn.  Maybe that's what this is about.

Sometimes I wish I had access to the analytical tools the Padres use to evaluate players, because from my perspective, they acquired a new starting center fielder with no appreciable upside from their current starting center fielder.

Complicating things is the Padres already crowded outfield.  Besides Gwynn Jr, Venable, and Denorfia, San Diego also has OF Kyle Blanks, Ryan Ludwick, Aaron Cunningham, Luis Durango, and Scott Hairston to choose from (and what about Matt Stairs?)  Clearly the club can't carry all those players, so someone or several someones are not going to be playing in SD next season.  If I was a betting man, I'd suspect Gwynn Jr, Hairston, and Stairs are gone, Blanks goes back to first base, Cunningham to the minors, and the Padres keep Ludwick, Venable, Durango and Denorfia.

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