DENVER - When the Braves traded Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres on the eve of opening day, the only thing most Braves fans liked about the deal was dumping Upton.
Some others understood the Braves got a very good pitching prospect in Matt Wisler in the deal. But very few — including the Braves themselves, truth be told — were real excited about taking on the contracts of outfielders Carlos Quentin, who was immediately DFA’d by the Braves and has since retired, and Cameron Maybin, whose recent performance didn’t match his salary for 2015-2016.
But the Padres had insisted the Braves take those contracts if San Diego was going to swallow Upton’s onerous deal.
Three months later, the Braves are quite pleased the Padres insisted they take Maybin. Because Maybin and second baseman Jace Peterson, another former Padre acquired in another Braves offseason trade involving another Upton, have been the most pleasant surprises among the position players brought in during a frenetic five months of Braves personnel moves.
Maybin entered Thursday with a .295 average, eight home runs, 43 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and a .362 on-base percentage in 76 games. He’s playing the way the Padres envisioned when they gave him a five-year, $25 million contract after his career-best 2011 season, when he hit .264 with nine homers, 40 RBIs and 40 stolen bases.
His average and OBP slipped to .243/.306 in 2012, though he still had eight homers, 45 RBIs and 26 steals. But in injury-plagued 2013 and 2014 seasons, Maybin hit a combined .222 with just two homers, 20 RBIs, eight stolen bases and a .280 OBP in 109 games.
The Padres packaged him in the Kimbrel deal, shedding the salaries Maybin was owed for 2015 ($7 million) and 2016 ($8 million), plus a $9 million option for 2017 that has a $1 million buyout. Now he’s playing so well, those salaries now look reasonable.
In his past 62 games before Thursday, he hit .320 with five homers, 38 RBIs and a .385 OBP and a .437 slugging percentage, including 11-for-26 (.423) with two doubles, a triple, two homers and six RBIs in the past five games.
Maybin had a three-run homer Wednesday at Milwaukee and ranked fourth in the NL with a .412 average with runners in scoring position, behind teammate Freddie Freeman (.418) and ahead of Andrew McCutchen (.403).
“He’s a guy who’s maturing, and he’s healthy,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who had a skinnier, far-less-productive Maybin on his Marlins teams for parts of the 2008-2010 seasons. “He’s grown up in the big leagues, so the stuff that everybody wanted to see, the five tools? They’re coming now. Some people want it at 21, 21, some people develop that a little later in their career.”