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Detroit Tigers sign Cameron Maybin to one-year, $1.5 million deal

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The twice-former Tiger is coming off a good year as a role player in New York.

MLB: AUG 21 Red Sox at Tigers Photo by Lon Horwedel/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While there was little hope that the Detroit Tigers might find an impactful player to add to their outfield mix this offseason, the club has continued to keep an eye out for a bit of bargain help, and they have zeroed in on a target. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Wednesday morning that the Tigers were nearing a deal with former center fielder Cameron Maybin.

Update: The Tigers announced the Maybin signing shortly after 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon. Chris McCosky of the Detroit News reports that the deal is a one-year contract worth $1.5 million. To make room for Maybin on the 40-man roster, the Tigers placed righthander Michael Fulmer on the 60-day injured list.

Obviously, Maybin has a long history with the Tigers organization. They made him the 10th overall pick in the 2005 MLB draft, and he was later a key part of the Miguel Cabrera trade with the Miami Marlins. Maybin also played for San Diego and Atlanta before returning to Detroit in 2016 on a one-year deal to take over center field.

That tour of duty went quite well, though it was plagued by some minor injuries. Maybin ran wild when he was in the lineup, stealing 15 bags and posting a 121 wRC+. For reasons that remain obscure, the Tigers neglected to offer him a contract that offseason, despite ostensibly trying to contend in 2017, and the hole at the position that year was one of the main weak points in the lineup.

Since leaving for the second time, Maybin has played for five major league teams. A trade from the Los Angeles Angels to Houston in 2017 earned him a World Series ring as part of the Astros non-controversial World Series championship squad. Maybin’s path then led him to Miami for a stint with the Marlins in 2018 before he was flipped to the Seattle Mariners in a deadline deal.

In 2019, the Cleveland Indians added Maybin on a minor league deal before sending him to the injury-plagued New York Yankees. Maybin would go on to play 82 games for the Bronx Bombers and played very well.

In that span, Maybin, still just 32 years of age, put up some of the best offensive numbers of his career with a change in approach. Over the years, Maybin has become a substantially more selective hitter who posts double digit walk rates consistently. In New York, working with a coaching group that consistently seems to get the most out of their hitters, Maybin also posted the most fly ball heavy mix of contact in his career, and it paid off with 11 home runs — only five of which came at home — in essentially a half season’s time. That combination of power and on base percentage was good for a 121 wRC+ on the year.

While his days as a plus center fielder are well behind him, Maybin can still capably handle all three positions, and retains the speed to wreak some havoc on the basepaths as well. The newfound power surge could make him a pretty interesting contributor in the lineup, as well as a positive veteran presence in the locker room. His addition also gives manager Ron Gardenhire better options to mix and match for better defense or offensive production with Victor Reyes, JaCoby Jones, and Christin Stewart.

On the other hand, the Tigers have a host of mediocre outfielders at the major league and Triple-A levels. It’s difficult to see the point in adding a veteran part-timer without much upside to the mix, particularly if it stalls them from making roster decisions on some of those players. Guys like Jorge Bonifacio and Travis Demerrite have little left to learn hanging around the Triple-A level at this point in their careers. Adding Maybin at this point is a somewhat curious, though certainly low-risk, move.

Still, Maybin is generally a fan favorite, probably won’t play enough to really block anyone worth worrying about, and he offers a bit more entertainment value to the Tigers 2020 roster.