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The Cameron Maybin conundrum

What do the Braves do?

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Braves traded Craig Kimbrel to the San Diego Padres, it was to get rid of Melvin Upton's albatross of a contract. It also brought them Cameron Maybin, who may be on his way to the best season of his career. That may just be my favorite storyline of Atlanta's 2015 season to date.

As the July 31 trade deadline nears, the Braves have a tough decision to make with the 28-year-old outfielder. Buster Olney had two interesting nuggets come across his timeline over the weekend:

As we mentioned before, the appeal of Maybin is fairly obvious. He's under a team-friendly contract that will pay him $8M in 2016 with a $9M team option for 2017. He's about to enter the prime of his career. And at .294/.363/.416, he looks to be one of the better bats in a seller's market this July.

Here are some options for the Braves:

Trade him at peak value, build the farm

Mallex Smith was recently promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett and looks to be the real deal. He could be ready to take on the full-time gig as soon as 2016. He may even get a cup of coffee with Atlanta in September.

All signs point to Smith being the center fielder of the future – the Braves kicked Jose Peraza out of center field the moment Smith was promoted – and his time could come next April. That can't happen if Maybin is still around.

Trading Maybin for prospects would continue to give the Braves even more talent to either utilize or eventually flip for an impact big leaguer. Considering his contract and performance as he reaches the prime of his career, I'd imagine Atlanta could get a couple of nice pieces in return.

Trade him at peak value, clear some money

There are a lot of ways John Hart and John Coppolella could go about this, and  this would be an interesting one: pair him with someone like Chris Johnson to rid the club of its final bad contract. Ken Rosenthal speculated on this over the weekend:

We know the Braves desperately want to move Chris Johnson. The only way they can do that is to pair him with something of value.

A Maybin-Johnson combo to a contending team may be appealing, but some kind of a bad contract would have to come back to Atlanta to make the money work. Since the prospect return would be greatly diminished by including CJ with Maybin, it would really have to be a lot of money to make it worth our while.

Keep Maybin for now, trade him in the offseason

Why rush it? If the Braves don't see something they like over the next few weeks, they can keep Maybin and pray he 1) continues to play well and 2) doesn't get hurt.

I'm kind of waiting for the Braves to go on a 2-8 stretch to officially make them sellers this month, but it hasn't happened yet. Maybe it never happens. But if Atlanta is still somehow in the mix of things on July 31, perhaps the front office holds onto their top chip until the offseason. That gives them even more time to feel out the market and (hopefully) get the best return possible.

Keep Maybin

Why ruin a good thing? He's enjoying the best offensive season of his career in Atlanta. He's under a team-friendly contract for another 2+ seasons. There's no such thing as a proven prospect, and for as good as Mallex looks in the minor leagues, we have no idea what he'll be moving forward. Top prospects bust all the time.

It's best to sell-high whenever possible, especially for a mid-market team like the Braves. But if the front office feels Maybin can keep this level of production up through his age-30 season, it would be foolish to trade him now.

What do you think the Braves should do?

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