By Chad Stewart
The Angels finally have an everyday left fielder.
Less than 24 hours after the final pitch of Game 7 of the World Series was thrown, the Angels traded right-handed pitching prospect Victor Alcantara in exchange for outfielder Cameron Maybin. Alcantara is a 23-year-old flame thrower who has struggled to find any sort of control in his professional career. He was ranked as the Angels’ eighth-best prospect by MLB Pipeline, which sounds impressive until you recognize the state of the Angels’ farm system. To put the strength of their farm system into perspective, Alcantara is now the Tigers’ 23rd-best prospect. So in reality, the amount of talent the Angels lost was minimal, and it’s almost as if they simply signed Maybin to a one-year, $9 million deal.
Maybin is 29 years old and has spent his career manning center field for the Marlins, Padres, Braves, and Tigers. Maybin has not played a single inning in left field in his career, but it is a significantly less demanding position than center field, so his typically sub-par defense will likely see at least a slight improvement with the transition to left.
Shortly after the trade was completed, Angels general manager Billy Eppler indicated that Maybin would indeed be roaming left field every day and that a platoon likely wouldn’t be necessary; his splits are about even versus pitchers of either handedness.
In 2016, Maybin hit .315 with an .801 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, eighth-best among center fielders with at least 350 plate appearances. Last year was by far the best season of his career, as he had been an around league-average hitter throughout his career.
It is probably unrealistic to expect him to be able to replicate his 2016 campaign, but even if he regresses to his career norms, he still represents a significant upgrade over the Angels’ left fielders of the last two years. For his career, Maybin has batted . 259 with a .695 OPS. Since the start of the 2015, Angels left fielders have combined to hit an abysmal .214 with a .603 OPS, the worst in the majors in that span. Therefore, even league-average production from Maybin would be a noticeable upgrade.
Another part of Maybin’s game that will be a welcome addition to the Angels is his speed. Maybin stole 15 bases in 94 games last year and swiped a career-high 40 bases in 2011. In 2016, the Angels totaled 73 stolen bases as a team, 17th in the majors. That’s not bad and is even a marked improvement over 2015, but the thing is, 30 of those came from Mike Trout. Maybin gives the Halos a second legitimate threat on the basepaths, as he is also an above-average baserunner according to FanGraphs, which will help make their offense more dynamic.
Perhaps Maybin’s biggest weakness throughout his career has been his inability to stay healthy for an entire season. Since 2013, he has played more than 100 games just once. Still, the Angels didn’t give up much in the way of talent to acquire him, and with the salaries of both C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver now off the books, $9 million shouldn’t make a big dent in their budget.
Acquiring Maybin so early in the offseason also allows them to focus their resources elsewhere for the remainder of it. Left field has been one of their most blatant deficiencies since 2015, but they still have a gaping hole at second base, and Neil Walker, who has been one of the better second basemen in baseball throughout his career, is available as a free agent this year and makes a lot of sense for the Halos.
Maybin will be a free agent following the 2017 season, so it appears that he is merely acting as a stopgap between 2017 and 2018. After 2017, the Angels will finally be freed of Josh Hamilton’s contract, giving them the financial flexibility to look into signing one of the bigger name free-agent outfielders that year, such as J.D. Martinez or Lorenzo Cain.
While the Angels still have plenty of work to do this offseason, acquiring Maybin is a good start, and they are already a better team than they were last year.