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A brief history of Cameron Maybin’s contributions to the Tigers

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Truly, Maybin was the gift that kept on giving.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With Ian Krol making his return to the Tigers last week, it seems like an ideal time to reflect not on Krol, but on the man who the Tigers traded him away for during his last stint with the team. It’s also an intriguing tie-in with the draft happening just last week to focus on the Tigers 2005 first-round selection, Cameron Maybin.

Maybin, now 34, has done three stints with the Tigers during his major league career. He was always a charming, affable outfield presence who was well-liked by fans, especially in his later appearances with the club. But it’s the history of Maybin’s trades and their impact on the team that might be even more interesting to look at.

So, let’s take a walk down memory lane and revisit the “family tree” of Cameron Maybin and the Detroit Tigers.

As we already mentioned, Maybin was initially acquired by the Tigers during the 2005 draft as the 10th selection of the first round. A few other future Tigers went in that first round, as Justin Upton was the first selection, and Mike Pelfrey was ninth. Other notable names in the same draft class were Troy Tulowitzki, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, and Andrew McCutchen.

The Tigers did a quick turnaround getting Maybin to the majors. He spent his first year in the minors with the High-A West Michigan Whitecaps, and the following year debuted with Double-A Erie, doing his rounds among the lower levels of the Tigers system, and then making his major league debut on August 17 of 2007. Maybin played a mere 24 games with the Tigers and hit only .143/.208/.265.

On December 4, 2007, the Tigers traded Maybin for the first time, sending him to the then-Florida Marlins, along with Andrew Miller and four other players for Dontrelle Willis and some young upstart named Miguel Cabrera.

In terms of trade value and “winning” the trade, it’s probably safe to say the Tigers gained their value back and then some with this deal. Dontrelle Willis was obviously a superstar, because shortly after the trade he signed a $29 million, three-year extension with the club.

Willis, in fact, appeared in only 24 games for the Tigers over three seasons with the team and had a 6.86 ERA and 1.93 WHIP. For those who remember the Willis era, it was marked by injury and disappointment. Willis made several trips to the injured list as he struggled with an anxiety disorder. It’s a shame, really, because Willis had started strong with the Marlins.

In 2010, Willis was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for pitcher Billy Buckner (not to be confused with Bill Buckner). In the 2010 season in which the Tigers traded Willis, Buckner had an 11.08 ERA in three games. He never played in the majors for Detroit, rather appearing in eight games in Toledo with a 9.40 ERA. Buckner was released by Tigers on July 25, 2010.

Obviously, Miguel Cabrera was the value “get” of the trade. Cabrera is a two-time MVP, 2012 Triple Crown winner, 11-time All-Star, seven-time Silver Slugger, and an absolute shoo-in to be a Hall of Famer once he retires. Even with sluggish numbers as he has aged and contended with injury, he still maintains a career line of .311/.388/.534, and is on pace to hit his 3000th hit and 500th home run this season. Even given the price paid at the time, there is no doubt that the Tigers got their money’s worth with the first Maybin trade.

They weren’t quite finished with Cameron Maybin yet, however. In 2015, the Atlanta Braves traded Maybin to the Tigers for Ian Krol and Gabe Speier. In that second stint with the Tigers in 2016, Maybin was tremendous. Over 94 games he hit .315/.383/.418. The numbers were good enough to make Maybin an appealing offseason trade target, and at this point the Tigers were desperately trying to hang on as legit contenders. On November 3, 2016, the Tigers traded Maybin to the Angels for pitcher Victor Alcántara.

Alcántara spent three seasons with the Tigers with middling, somewhat forgettable results. He had a solid 2018 season, but his overall numbers in the majors were a 4.28 ERA, 5.30 FIP, and 1.34 WHIP. Alcántara elected free agency in 2019, and in 2020 he was suspended for 80 games for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. He hasn’t been in the majors since 2019.

The third Maybin trade came in 2020, as Maybin signed a one-year deal with the club and in the shortened season appeared in 14 games before being traded yet again, this time to the Chicago Cubs in return for Zach Short. Short, a 17th-round selection in the 2016 draft, made his debut with the Tigers just this year.

So far in 2021, Short has hit .190/.333/.365 in 23 games.

Maybin, meanwhile, stuck with the Cubs for the 2020 season even after being granted his free agency, and in 2021 was traded to the New York Mets for cash considerations totally a whopping $1. He is currently in the Mets minor league system.

To circle back to Krol, as he has made his own full circle in returning to the Tigers, we wanted to see how the trade tree continued on that end. Krol wasn’t included in any further trades after going to the Braves, but bounced around with a few other major league clubs like the Angels, Mets, Reds, and Twins before landing a 50-game suspension in 2019 for use of a “drug of abuse.”

Krol re-entered the Tigers system during the 2020-21 offseason and spent the start of the year with the Mud Hens before rejoining the major league roster in July.

Gabe Speier originally came to the Tigers as a part of the Rick Porcello trade with the Red Sox, the deal which also briefly saw Yoenis Cespedes as a Detroit Tiger. Speier actually gets a very interesting trade tree following his move to the Braves.

In 2015, a mere nine days after being traded by the Tigers, Speier and Shelby Miller were traded by the Braves to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, and Aaron Blair. Speier spent his tenure with the DBacks at the various levels of their minor league system.

In the middle of the 2018 season, Speier was traded again, this time to the Kansas City Royals along with Elvis Luciano for Jon Jay. Though he only got a sip of coffee with the Royals, he did get to make his major league debut in a scoreless inning against the Detroit Tigers.

All said, the history of Maybin trades is an interesting one to follow through its iterations. It goes without saying that the acquisition of Miguel Cabrera made any other questionable trade selections a moot point, but it’s still kind of cool to see how many names were in some way connected to a Maybin trade.

Now just try to imagine doing this for Edwin Jackson. (You don’t have to, DRaysBay did it for us.)