Michael Bourn, Cameron Maybin and Security Blankets


Nobody is talking about Cameron Maybin. Which makes sense, there really isn’t much to talk about with Cameron Maybin. He’s been on the San Diego Padres for a few years now, toiling in relative obscurity in that massive outfield at Petco, not attracting attention on an unattractive team. He amassed 0.5 WAR last year and he performed offensively to the tune of a 77 wRC+. A pretty good glove for his career, and you know he can go and get it since it’s pretty much number one on outfielder requirements when you play for the Padres. Unless you’re Carlos Quentin, I suppose, though that may have some impact on the Padres eternal search for a defensive ace in center.

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Meanwhile, the Indians have Michael Bourn penciled in as their opening day center fielder. When he’s healthy, Bourn makes it look so easy out there, moving with a strange, almost ghostly grace. Like a Rolls Royce, he wafts. Simply put, he is outfield excellence. The problem is, Bourn doesn’t do the healthy thing too well these days. He played 106 games last year, 130 the year before. It’s come so that the Indians have had to employ the likes of Nyjer Morgan, Mike Aviles, or Michael Brantley in center field. It led to a miserable at times outfield defense despite some neat highlights, which only made things worse with what was going on in the infield. When he’s out there Bourn is fantastic, but there needs to be a backup that doesn’t drop off. That’s where Maybin comes in.

It’s hard to flourish as a team when your pitchers feel the need to strike everyone out because the fielder will just blow the play. So the 2014 Tribe just set the record for most strikeouts in a season. It’s what they had to do. When Bourn out with injuries, the situation was so much worse. Having Maybin on the bench and as a defensive replacement (or whatever you want to do with him), fills some holes. Maybin is a punch-and-judy hitter in the best of times, but at least he’s right-handed. Not that lineup balance for its own sake is a reason to keep a guy around but it’s at least something that makes the more traditional managers out there, of which there are a few in the Central alone, make pitcher moves.

Sep 21, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin (24) hits a two RBI single during the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Getting Maybin is made all the easier by the logjam in San Diego’s outfield. By getting Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers along with still having Carlos Quentin floating around AND Will Venable, a not too-bad player himself worth 6 fWAR the last three years. There’s players to be had there and not enough playing time for them all. The Padres have to give Myers reps since he’s a young gun with oomph, and they have to play Kemp and Upton because that’s what the fans are there for. What’s a Maybin to do? He’s out there in SoCal without enough innings to go around. He’s due for a change of scenery.

The question becomes then, what to give up for a 27-year-old outfielder, one who is signed through 2016 for $10 million with a team option for 2017 at $9 million (and a million dollar buyout)?

The Padres have a stacked outfield, youth up the middle, just traded for Will Middlebrooks at third, can’t be expected to quit on Yonder Alonso at first, and Derek Norris is likely their catcher. Pitching isn’t hard for them to find either. It doesn’t seem like they have any glaring need the Indians could help fill. But it’s not like Maybin should come expensive, he was traded for Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica when the Padres got him from Miami. After Benoit in the bullpen the Friars doesn’t elicit a lot of confidence outside of perhaps Kevin Quackenbush, and at least 20 percent of that is almost assuredly because opposing hitters are laughing at his last name as he pitches. Perhaps Casey Kelly could do some good work for them, but prospects are suspect and all that. I think the Indians could get Maybin for a power arm out of the pen, of which they have several. My first thought went to Cody Allen.

I know what you’re thinking. Trading away Cleveland’s Proven Closer ™ is madness. Who will lock down games now? I’d say any number of people. The thing about most any relievers, they waver in effectiveness so much. Remember when Chris Perez was the shizzz? Allen looked shaky at times last year, it’s not like he’s the Indians’ version of Trevor Hoffman out there. His home run rate has been creeping upwards every year he’s been a regular in the ‘pen, from 6.5 percent of fly balls in 2012 to 9.3 this year. That’s dangerous ground for a reliever, and with the bomb launchers in the AL Central, it only gets worse. He’s been very, very solid though and it’s time to capitalize on that with a piece that could help day in and day out, not just two out of every three or four games and give a confidence to the rest of the team that was lacking in 2014.

Jul 10, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Nick Hagadone (50) delivers against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field. Cleveland won 9-3. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

If they don’t feel like parting with Allen because Francona likes to have his guy in the back of the pen, down on the farm are guys like Cody Anderson who should see the Show in 2015. Perhaps Anderson and Nick Hagadone, another ML level lefty power arm. I like Hagadone, absent what’s between the ears, and that 12 percent HR/FB rate. Like Allen, not quite awesome for a reliever and his is much worse. He’s got that fiery attitude that many bullpen men have, but he seems to let the moment get to him too much. He lets the rage control him rather than channeling it into domination. Plus he’s had clashes with the Indians coaching staff and front office in the past so surely Francona wouldn’t be too upset. Maybin cost two middling relievers when he still had the shine of “Potential” on him. I can’t imagine he’d be any more expensive now that he’s found himself in the world of fourth outfielders. Maybin also costs more now than he did when the Padres got him, but he’s still a bargain so it might cost more than the Tribe would like to pay. Two relievers like Anderson and Hagadone might be a bit much, but it’s a place of relative wealth for the Indians. And the front office has shown a knack in the past for finding pitchers on the scrap heap.

You gotta catch the ball, simple as that. The pitcher can’t do it all and the lack of a decent defense might have cost the Indians a playoff berth in 2014. They’ll get their K’s even if getting Maybin or someone like him means losing Allen or another arm. They set a record with in 2014 for team strikeouts, they’ll be fine no matter what reliever is removed. Having Maybin gives an insurance policy for Bourn, gives a guy to bring in as a defensive replacement like how the Royals did in the 7th inning with Nori Aoki, Lorenzo Cain and Jarrod Dyson three-headed monster manning center and right field. With the lack of glove in the Indians’ outfield, even if Bourn plays 145 games it gives Francona a neat piece to help protect leads. There would be a lot of solid outfielders on the bench, but that might be what Marlo Stanfield would call a good problem. It’s far from a seismic move but the Indians are on the precipice. A little nudge is all it takes.

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