The Braves believe young Mallex Smith is not far away from the big leagues. That faith in Smith's potential led to Friday's trade of Cameron Maybin to the Tigers for two left-handed relievers.
Maybin returns to the team that originally drafted him a decade ago and the team he broke in with in 2007. Maybin was involved in the huge Miguel Cabera trade prior to the 2008 season. He came to the Braves last April from San Diego in the huge Craig Kimbrel trade.
Maybin had the best season of his career with the Braves, as he hit .267 with 10 home runs and 59 RBI - all career highs. But when the Braves acquired Michael Bourn in August, and Maybin started to struggle, it became inevitable as to which player would soon leave.
Bourn will now bridge the gap until Smith is ready, which should be sometime next summer.
Ian Krol is a 24-year-old left-hander who broke in with the Nationals in 2013. He pitched in 32 games and was then traded to the Tigers in the Doug Fister deal. Krol pitched in 45 games in 2014 and then in 33 games in 2015 with Detroit. Overall, Krol has a 4.91 ERA in 110 relief appeances in his three-year career.
Krol has had more success in his career against left-handed batters, limiting them to a .265 batting average. Right-handed hitters have batted .305 against Krol. Last season Krol did not do well against lefty hitters, as they hit .326 against him while right-handed hitters batted .262 against him.
In Triple-A Toledo last season, Krol had a 2.30 ERA in 28 games, with 34 strikeouts in 31.1 innings. So the Braves likely saw something there to make them interested in the left-hander.
Gabe Speier will turn 21 years old next April. He was originally with the Red Sox, but the Tigers got him along with Yoenis Cespedes last December. He is the nephew of former MLB infielder Chris Speier.
Speier had Tommy John surgery late in 2013 and returned in to Boston's GCL team for nine games the next summer. Last season in Low-A, Speier pitched in 33 games and had a 2.86 ERA, with 40 hits allowed in 44 innings, 12 walks and 36 strikeouts.
He'll likely be a candidate for the Carolina Mudcats bullpen next March.
The trade gives Atlanta another 2016 bullpen candidate, a potential reliever for the future and some salary relief. Reports have the Braves saving around $6.5 million from the trade.
But the deal also opens the door for Smith, who will get a look in Florida but the Braves prefer to have Smith go back to Triple-A Gwinnett to start the season. Smith, who had a .295 career minor league batting average, had 57 stolen bases last season between AA Mississippi and AAA Gwinnett.
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