Surprise! The Detroit Tigers are bringing back outfielder Cameron Maybin seven years after shipping their 2005 first-round draft pick off to warmer climates. The Tigers and Braves announced Friday afternoon that Detroit would acquire Maybin in exchange for left-handed pitchers Ian Krol and Gabe Speier. The Braves are throwing in $2.5 million to help cover the $8 million Maybin is owed in 2016. (He is under contract for $9 million in 2017 with a $1 million buyout.)
Maybin, 28, made his major league debut in Detroit in 2007, but was then a jewel in the trade that brought Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers -- which seems to have worked out okay for Detroit. Since then, Maybin has put up mostly middling numbers for three organizations, including the Marlins, Padres, and Braves. In his best season, 2011, he put up 4.1 fWAR based on strong numbers in all areas of the game.
Last year with the Braves, however, he hit .267/.327/.370 (94 wRC+ for the sabermetric-minded) with -16 DRS and a -7.4 UZR/150, and 1.0 fWAR. For his career he's a .251 hitter with a .313 on-base percentage and .266 slugging average (87 wRC+) with +7 DRS and +1.2 UZR/150.
"Cameron Maybin is a good outfielder with plenty of experience in center field," Tigers GM Al Avila said in the announcement. "He is coming off of a solid offensive season in 2015 and brings speed and athleticism to our club. (Manager) Brad Ausmus and the coaching staff will determine Cameron's role during spring training."
For his career, Maybin has played predominantly in center field, his only left-fielding season coming in 2007 when he was last with Detroit. Essentially, he's another Rajai Davis-like player, but with a better glove. Maybin's splits at the plate are fairly pedestrian against both left- and right-handed pitching, and he won't get on-base at a high rate like Davis, but the defense will be an improvement.
This is the second low cost move the Tigeres have made this offseason in an effort to plug holes without draining the budget. It's not flashy, but both have gotten the job done. Whether the Tigers keep Maybin in center field as a platoon to Anthony Gose remains to be seen until spring.
The possibility remains that he could also fill the hole in left field. However, being as he's already a right-handed bat that can't hit lefties well, platooning him with someone like Tyler Collins might not be the best option. But only time will tell. There's also another factor to consider. Davis, a free agent, will certainly be looking for a multi-year deal, where as Maybin is a low-cost temporary patch for 2016 with no further attachments beyond that if the team doesn't like what they see. Low risk, high reward.
Maybin's 2015 defensive stats are egregious, but they're more of a blip on the radar of a better than average defender throughout his career. Five of his nine major league seasons were above replacement level, and of the remaining three negative seasons, only two were ranked worse than -2 DRS and UZR, respectively. If he returns to his previous numbers (four of his last five years prior to 2015 were positive) then Detroit will have a solid defender regardless of whether that's in left or center field.
As for what became known as the failed Doug Fister trade, that experiment is officially at an end. Robbie Ray is with the Diamondbacks and Shane Greene is in Detroit. Sending Krol to the Braves closes the book on what has been one of the least-popular moves in the history of former Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski's tenure.