I heard about the Cameron Maybin trade while I was in Arizona, taking in some AFL games (more on that later in the week). I thought about it a lot on the drive home and shared the gist of my conclusion on Twitter:
Even if Maybin ends up stinking, so what? Webb and Mujica can be replaced and Gwynn *needs* to be replaced. I’m not seeing downside.
Edward Mujica throws strikes but doesn’t use the inner half of the plate and is susceptible to the long ball. He soaks up low-leverage innings, which is useful to a team in a Ramiro Mendoza kind of way. Guys like Brandon Gomes, Evan Scribner, and any number of inexpensive free agents should be able to do the same.
As for Ryan Webb, I like him. He throws hard and his pitches have terrific movement. If he cleans up his mechanics a little, he could be the new Jeff Nelson. That’s a nice piece to have. But it’s not as nice as Maybin might be. And the drop from Webb to Ernesto Frieri is far less precipitous than the drop from Maybin’s potential to Tony Gwynn Jr.’s reality.
There’s a chance Maybin is nothing, and that’s fine. For two middle relievers, and given Maybin’s upside, it’s an acceptable risk. Your calculus may vary, but assuming there’s a 20% chance he becomes Mike Cameron, a 20% chance he becomes Ruben Rivera, and a 60% chance he ends up somewhere between those two extremes…
Look, it’s not like the Padres have overwhelming internal options. Cedric Hunter appears to be a spare part in the making, Blake Tekotte (whom I like as a possible poor man’s Mark Kotsay) is a month younger than Maybin and has played 67 games above A-ball, and Donavan Tate hasn’t demonstrated mastery of the all-important health tool.
Turning to the bigger picture, I’m impressed by Jed Hoyer’s aggressiveness. This trade may not work… at all. That said, Hoyer is showing a willingness to boldly go where no Padres GM has gone in a very long time. Granted, boldness doesn’t mean much if it isn’t accompanied by a certain amount of success, but still… this is exciting. And judging from some of the responses I received via Twitter, I’m not the only person who thinks so.
It’s easy to be excited in November. Everyone has the same record now, and much remains unknown. We may look back at this some day and laugh at our optimism. Very well, so we laugh. But we won’t be crying over the loss of Mujica and Webb. And if we are, then we need to adjust our priorities in life, eh?
Meanwhile, the Padres outfield has become crowded. The U-T’s Bill Center speculates that at least two of Ryan Ludwick, Gwynn, Chris Denorfia, and Scott Hairston (all arbitration eligible) will be non-tendered. Indications are that Ludwick will return and Hairston will not.
Gwynn is the best defender of the lot, and there are political reasons for keeping him around, but with a true center fielder in the fold, maybe the Padres are willing to cut ties with the namesake of the most recognizable player in franchise history. Or maybe, with Chase Headley scheduled to earn more than the front office intended to pay him, the club pushes Ludwick aside and funnels some of the money earmarked for his raise into Headley’s pocket.
One other point that concerns Hoyer’s approach is worth mentioning. There are, as best I can tell, two currently exploitable market inefficiencies (well, there are probably others, but these are two that I’ve noticed):
- Old guys with health and/or reliability concerns (the Texas Rangers worked this one well in 2010)
- “Post-hype” former prospects who have not yet fulfilled their potential and who may or may not ever do so
As we know, it behooves a team operating under tight budgetary constraints to identify and attack such inefficiencies. Hoyer appears to be doing just that.
He has made four trades as GM of the Padres. One (Miguel Tejada) falls into the first category, two (Aaron Cunningham and now Maybin) fall into the second. (The other, Ludwick, falls into neither but just made sense.) The acquisitions of Tejada, Cunningham, and Maybin were not particularly safe moves.
Those players all had/have the potential to fail… and in possibly spectacular fashion. This is the risk one takes in trading for flawed players. The way one mitigates such risk is by making sure the acquisition cost remains sufficiently low that even failure doesn’t hurt much. To get Tejada, Cunningham, and Maybin, the Padres gave up Wynn Pelzer, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mujica, and Webb. These are useful players, but none of them is going to make or break the team’s future. (Neither is Tejada, but he helped down the stretch last year, so he’s already provided value.)
Cunningham could be a difference maker for the Padres in the future. Same with Maybin. Isn’t it worth the price of replaceable players to find out for sure?