Why Did the Marlins Trade Maybin?

Evaluating trades is one of the most fun aspects of baseball analysis. The best evaluations often are made at the time of the trade, based on perceived mindsets of the teams involved and on the information available at the time the deal was conceived. Hindsight makes things easier, but often winds up with less accurate assessments. Still, taking another look after a couple of years can be an interesting exercise, especially when players involved in the original deal moved to new teams.

Suddenly, one move can impact the roster of four or five different teams depending on the eventual destinations of the players involved. One recent deal involved the Florida Marlins sending all-stars Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for Andrew Miller, Cameron Maybin, Burke Badenhop, Mike Rabelo, Dallas Trahern and Eulogio De La Cruz. Though the latter four players have their merits, the December 2007 deal was really two of the top prospects in baseball for Cabrera and the ability to not have to pay Willis.

Three years later, the Marlins essentially unloaded a hall-of-fame player for three middle relievers — as both Maybin and Miller are on new teams and only one of the original players acquired remains on the major league club.

Almost everyone in that deal is on a new team. Maybin roams center field for the Padres. Miller was dealt to the Red Sox in November. Eulogio De La Cruz spent a year in Florida before going to the Padres in 2009 and missing the 2010 season. He is now in the Brewers organization, pitching with the same mediocre results.

Willis is in the Reds minor league system. Rabelo is back with the Tigers. The only three players who have stayed put are Cabrera, Badenhop and Trahern. Miggy continues to tear it up and he just turned 28 years old. Badenhop has been a key in the Marlins bullpen since the deal was made and Trahern is posting Kyle Kendrick-ian strikeout rates in the minors. Color me skeptical that he ever helps the Marlins.

Miller brought back minor-league pitcher Dustin Richardson, who misses plenty of bats, but exhibits poor control. Miller certainly hadn’t been an effective major league hurler, but Richardson is 27 years old and seems to be nothing more than bullpen fodder. The most interesting offshoot of the Cabrera deal was the trade sending Maybin to the Padres for relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. This trade essentially looks like Miguel Cabrera for Webb, Mujica, and Badenhop.

The original trade, and the two that followed — sending both Miller and Cabrera to their new digs — illustrates the risks inherent with evaluating prospects. On one hand, it’s entirely possible that the Marlins overvalued Maybin and Miller and should have sought a better return for Cabrera. On the other hand, prospect mavens rated both highly, and the Marlins might have given up too early on them — especially Maybin. Essentially, the same team might have under- and overvalued the same two prospects.

Given that Maybin already has produced approximately two wins above replacement, revisiting his trade to the Padres is in order. The move really made no sense for the Marlins, even before factoring in how well he’s played this season. He was perceived to have underperformed with the Marlins, even though his playing time was sporadic. From 2008 to 2010 — his age 21 to 23 seasons — he hit .257/.323/.391. The league average in the senior circuit in that span was approximately .258/.329/.407. In other words, Maybin was practically a league average hitter in his time with the Marlins. At worst, he was a league average fielder at arguably the toughest position on the field. Combine those factors with his age and it seems incomprehensible to trade him for two middle relievers. With all due respect to Webb and Mujica, there are only two reasons to trade someone like Maybin if you’re in the Marlins position:

1. The team is absolutely blown away with an offer
2. The team is convinced he’s a bust and wants to get something — anything — for him

Webb and Mujica, in no way fit the first reason. Given his production — 2.7 WAR in 144 games and 557 PA at age 21-23 — how on earth could the team be convinced he was a bust? Andrew Miller might not become the pitcher everyone envisioned when the Tigers took him in the first round, but the Marlins had a chance to keep a player with potential to be an upper-echelon center fielder, and squandered that opportunity by giving up on him too early. Even if Maybin settled in the 3 to 3.5 WAR range (which seemed realistic), instead of the 5+ WAR area, he would have greatly benefited the Marlins.

The trade was strange in November given what we knew at the time. Now? Well, it only seems stranger To give up on a 23-year-old, former top prospect who produced at least at a league-average level is questionable. To trade that player for two middle relievers is inexcusable, regardless of how he produces over the rest of his career. At the time of the deal it made no sense, and it makes even less sense with the aid of hindsight.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

40 Responses to “Why Did the Marlins Trade Maybin?”

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  1. de la Cruz didn’t actually miss 2010, he spent the year in Japan with Yakult, mostly in the minors.

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  2. David Dombrowski says:

    Man, did I rob the Marlins blind or what?!? Miguel Cabrera for Maybin and a collection of spare parts.

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    • Other David Dombrowski says:

      That move alone is pretty much keeping my head above water!

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      • The other other David Dombrowski says:

        And it helps people forget about the countless number of stupid moves I have made

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    • Bronnt says:

      It’s funny, since that same offseason, you traded Jair Jurrjens and Gorkys Hernandez to acquire Edgar Renteria. Totally overpaid for a shortstop who’d just had his last productive season, then stole one of the game’s premier power hitters.

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    • Minstrel says:

      Miguel Cabrera for Maybin and about $30 million of wasted salary for Willis that the Marlins saved (though I don’t know how much of it was locked in at the time of the deal…did Detroit extend him?).

      Still a great deal, though Maybin is definitely a talent. Shame for Florida that the Marlins won’t reap the benefits.

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  3. Shamus says:

    The Sox are adding Andrew Miller to their starting rotation this week. If he sticks as a 5th starter, this deal looks even more awful for the Marlins.

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    • RC says:

      Yeah, apparently they started making him do a simulated inning right before the start of the game, and hes no longer walking guys. (He previously was getting like 60% of his walks in the first inning).

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    • Eric M. Van says:

      Miller’s line in the four starts after they changed his warmup:

      25.1 IP, 26 K, 3 BB, 17 H (.250 BABIP), 1.78 ERA. Crunching all his numbers (including 50% BABIP regression) I have that as a 3.20 MLE ERA.

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  4. Scott says:

    There are more reasons to trade a player other than those you mention; the possibility exists that he didn’t see eye-to-eye with the coaching staff or teammates. It’s possible he requested a trade for playing time or even family-related reasons.

    Maybe Maybin was tired of the orange seats.

    The Fish probably pulled the trigger because they are impatient and cheap, but the point is we shouldn’t dismiss any and every other reason.

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  5. doug K says:

    I dont think the Padres got such a great deal in the end. Time will still tell on Maybin. He looks like a great range CF but with only a 240/300/375 bat once it settles in. He is closer to Carlos Gomez than Drew Stubbs IMHO. That would make the Padres deal a fair one and the Tigers deal a bad one for the Marlins. But even if he stays a 275/350/450 type hitter that would still be true.

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    • James says:

      It’s a steal of a deal for the Padres… The triple slash is useless in comparing players who play in radically different home stadiums. Check Stubbs’s Home/Road splits. Maybin is 3 years younger than Stubbs, and arguably is on par with Stubbs right now even with his past playing time issues hindering his development…

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    • Felonius_Monk says:

      Given he’s hit .251/.317/.390 for his career so far, and is only 23, and getting better, AND projected as a .255/.325/.403 hitter by ZiPS, it’s pretty hard to see where you’ve pulled this “.240/.300/.375″ projection from.

      You’re basically arguing that a 23-year-old former top prospect who seems to have recently figured things out is going to hit a lot worse than he’s ever done before. Odd.

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      • GrouchoM says:

        No, what’s really odd is that you actually think he’s “recently figured things out”. Really? Instead of striking out in 1/3rd of his ABs now he’s K’ing in only 1/4th. Wow, tremendous improvement there. So let’s see, he must be hitting for more power, right? Nope, still hitting an anemic .150 ISO. Well, then his walk rate must be going through the roof, right? Eh, looks like the same old 8% to me.

        So how exactly is one of the most overrated prospects in recent memory figuring anything out?

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    • Dandy Salderson says:

      Absurd.

      In 298 minor league at bats in 2009 he put up 319/399/463, and in 141 at bats in 2010 he put up 340/415/525. Carlos Gomez? Get real.

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  6. Xenophanes says:

    I’m pretty convinced this trade was more about Chris Coghlan vs. Cameron Maybin. The Marlins have Gaby Sanchez at first, Logan Morrison in left, and Michael Stanton in right. Unfortunately, Logan Morrison can’t really play anywhere other than left or first, so he’s stuck there. Second base was vacated by Uggla only to be immediately replaced by Omar Infante(!). Matt Dominguez seems to be the Marlins’ choice at third for the future, so that’s out for Coghlan, too. The only place to put Coghlan is center field and I don’t think the Marlins were ready to get rid of their 2009 ROY.

    Unfortunately, I feel like the organization got put into a position where it had to choose one young, unproven player over another. Whether or not they picked the right one, that remains to be seen. However, Maybin has been better this year, so there’s that.

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    • Dash says:

      Why wouldn’t they keep Chris Coghlan and Cameron Maybin instead of Omar Infante? Or even all three? Infante could have been a super-utility type player for them like he was used often with the Braves and Tigers. Infante had a nice season in 2010, but that was the only season he really showed he could be a big league regular and that was BABIP driven.

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      • Xenophanes says:

        That’s an excellent question. It seemed like the organization was intent on keeping Coghlan out of the infield and having Infante start. I have no idea why, but there it is.

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      • Dan Uggla says:

        Wasn’t Coghlan a second and third baseman in the minors? Defensively, there’s no way he could be worse than me.

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    • Vegemitch says:

      This still doesn’t explain selling him for ten cents on the dollar. Not only that but because Coghlan can play 2B, the “choice” was O. Infante vs C. Maybin.

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      • Madz says:

        Coghlan’s infield abilities are questionable. He’s no worse than Uggla, yes… but he’s not a upgrade over Uggla defensively. Infante is.

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  7. Jesse says:

    I have to disagree with the statement; maybe the Marlins overvalued Miller and Maybin…

    I think that is a brutally unfair statement seeing how Baseball America had them ranked as the 8 and 10 prospects in all of baseball.

    They could not have gotten a better return at the time, they sure could have gotten luckier but they could not have gotten a better deal based on all available information

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    • BG says:

      Jesse is dead on:

      Miller had been regarded as a top-of-the-line talent for a long time. I remember reading that he was the top HS arm in the 03 draft; the Rays drafted him in the 3rd round despite his strong commitment to UNC. In ’06, Miller was the consensus #1 prospect. The year after signing with the Tigers, BA reported he had a 98 mph fastball but worked 93-95 and a slider that was a big league out pitch, but that he probably needed to develop a true change-up instead of just changing speeds with his fastball (he’d dial it down as low as the low-80s).

      As for Maybin, he was BA’s #3 player for the ’05 draft, and fell to the Tigers because of a college commitment. BA praised his athletic talent, skill and makeup coming up in the Tiger’s system. They reported he had some holes in his game – pitch recognition, reads in the OF – the kind of things you’d think a top talent like Maybin can/will develop with experience.

      At the time, Miller looked like at least a legit ML starting pitcher and Maybin looked like a guy that was going to hit and play elite CF defense. Throw in the other guys – BA had yet to play in the Majors Trahern as FL’s #10 prospect after the trade and de la Rosa at #18 – and at the time it looked like a fair trade (at least to the casual fan with a BA subscription).

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      What I meant was more of that maybe they expected these guys to come in and produce, like right away, and overvalued them in that sense. Not that they were overvalued from a broad perspective because, yeah, at the time it was 2 first rounders for Cabrera.

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  8. Jeff says:

    That Cabrera trade looks even worse when you consider sending him to the Dodgers at the time would have at least netted them Chad Billingsley

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    • Matt says:

      Yeah you can’t argue with getting two top 10 prospects plus fillers. There’s probably not many players in baseball right now that would be able to net you that. Plus they got rid of Dontrelle too.

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  9. oscar says:

    tigers are one of the worst draft scouting teams anyways, they took maybin over jay bruce and mccutchen.

    maybin is good. lomo and stanton are sexier. i do prefer maybin over coghlan. =/

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    • BG says:

      It’s hard to fault the Tigers for taking Maybin even if McCutchen and Bruce were taken right after. How often do you get three high school OFs chosen back-to back-to back who combine power and speed (20/20!!) and look like they have the potential to be really good major leaguers? Based on what was available to the public at the time, the Tigers took the safest pick.

      Going into the 2005 high school season BA had ranked, among highschoolers, Maybin at 2, McCutchen at 8 and Bruce at 44. They later wrote that Bruce “went from unknown to prospect in 2004″ and kept up the strong play in 2005, raising his profile. Still, that might make him a tiny bit riskier pick than McCutch or Maybin who’d both been known to scouts longer.

      All three guys were considered great defenders. Maybin was the best of the bunch though; BA called his OF game “graceful” and praised his strong throwing arm. Bruce didn’t look like he was a sure bet to stick in CF, and McCutchen had an average arm.

      Both Maybin and Bruce looked like potential power threats, while McCutchen’s raw power was considered “average”. McCutchen was also the smallest of the three – reported as 5’11″, 175 to Maybin’s 6’3″ 195 and Bruce’s 6’2″ 206, although they did expect McCutchen to hit for more power depending on how he filled out.

      Bruce and McCutchen looked like they were better in terms of “pure hitting,” as BA put it, but they were calling Maybin a “5 tool” player as well.

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    • Will says:

      To be fair, through 209 games, Jay Bruce looked like a bust too. He was worth 2.6 WAR from 2008-09, compared with Maybin’s 2 WAR over that same period, which he played in only a third of the number of games as Bruce.

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  10. Mike Savino says:

    It was a Jedi Mind trick. This is not the center fielder you’re looking for.

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  11. GVeers says:

    The Marlins seem considerably less formidable in the front office since Beinfest was promoted. Besides the Maybin trade, the John Buck signing looks pretty bad. I feel like Beinfest would have not done either.

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  12. Bpdelia says:

    Sigh., yep.

    Im a nyy fan who moved to miami 5 years ago and became a fan who regularly attends games. I didnt like the trade at the time. A hitter like miggy should net s cost controlled young ml pitcher and a great prisoect. But whatever.

    The maybin deal however made me angry at the time and now that anger has faded to sadness.

    If cam hsd put up those numbers in his 23 to 25 seasons u worry. But my gof he was 21 years old.

    Awful then awful now

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  13. by jiminy says:

    I remember a lot of people saying at the time that the Tigers had given up too much. Miller and Maybin were extremely highly regarded, and Miggy, while quite the slugger, was going to cost them a lot in salary as well. The Willis deal just made it even more expensive. I remember at least some Twins fans saying, this is good, those contracts will weigh them down for several years, and they’ll miss their young talent too. Who knew I was really talking about the 2011 Twins, but whatever.

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  14. Htpp says:

    It’s also pretty amazing that they managed to trade their All-Star 2B to a division rival with one of the top farm systems without receiving a single prospect in return

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  15. Madz says:

    As a fan the move seemed pretty clear to me. Give Cody Ross away, save a million bucks. Throw Maybin out there for the rest of the season and see what he does. If he’s mildly impressive, keep him. He wasn’t. The offseason moves were about team needs. They didn’t need a(nother) young, shaky player. If you look at all the young players on the team, Maybin was really the only one that was consistently inconsistent. Base running blunders, poor defensive reads, laughable place discipline. It left him as the odd man out in a young organization. All of the other young guys bring something to the table that is (relatively) consistent. Stanton has Godly power, Sanchez is a pretty complete player, Coghlan was RotY and showed much more success and staying power over Maybin, LoMo had an impressive rookie season. The Marlins needed bullpen help, not a young and unproven outfielder. Last season the BP and defense blew over 20 games for the team, needed to be revamped. They believe in Coghlan’s athletic ability to hold CF down, and he’s doing a pretty decent job this season. They couldn’t move Coghlan to 3B with Dominguez expected to make the roster (though he didn’t). It’s easy to argue that he’s young and still developing, and that’s 100% true… but I think it was just an overload of kids on the team, had to part with the ‘odd man out’.

    As for those of you talking about Uggla and Infante.. again, this seemed pretty easy to me. Uggla hit a lot of HRs, yeah.. but the vast majority of them were solo shots. I think the idea with Infante was improve the defense and bring in someone that can get on base for Ramirez, Stanton, Sanchez and Morrison.

    Verdict is still out for me on Buck.

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  16. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    Shouldn’t the Pares get some praise for this deal!!

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  17. Nick says:

    The trade had nothing to do with the Marlins dumping salary for Willis. Willis was still arb-eligible and had not signed a contract for the 2008 season yet. They could have easily non-tendered him if they didn’t want to pay him.

    That line pops up in revisionist history over the trade all the time (especially among Tigers fans), but Dombrowski obviously wanted Willis in the trade specifically.

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