LAKELAND, Fla. -- Cameron Maybin knows his way to Tigertown. The Tigers have brought him back for a third stint.
Detroit’s need for a right fielder and Maybin’s need for a landing spot in free agency for his 14th Major League season resulted in a reunion. The former Tigers top Draft pick signed a one-year contract worth $1.5 million plus incentives.
“Cameron is a dynamic outfielder that we can rely on for solid play in both the field and at the plate,” general manager Al Avila said in a press release announcing the signing. “His veteran presence will be an asset to our lineup and we’re excited to have him back with the organization.”
The Tigers opened a 40-man roster spot for Maybin by placing right-hander Michael Fulmer on the 60-day injured list. Fulmer is expected to be out until midseason while working his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Maybin will report to camp 14 years after his first Spring Training in Lakeland. He was a teenage phenom at the time, drafted 10th overall by the Tigers in the 2005 MLB Draft. He made his Major League debut for the Tigers a year and a half later, homering off Roger Clemens at Yankee Stadium in his second big league game.
The Tigers traded Maybin to the Marlins in December 2007 in the mega-deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to Detroit. Maybin returned to the Tigers after the 2015 season, acquired from the Braves for relievers Ian Krol and Gabe Speier. Maybin batted .315 with four home runs, 43 RBIs and an .801 OPS for the Tigers that year, playing an underrated role on a 2016 Detroit club that played its way into the AL Wild Card race until the final weekend. Their 86-75 record that year marks the Tigers’ last winning season.
With a $9 million option looming, the Tigers traded Maybin to the Angels after that season for reliever Victor Alcantara. After playing for the Angels and Astros in 2017, then the Marlins and Mariners in 2018, Maybin found a role last year on the injury-plagued Yankees, batting .285 (68-for-239) with 11 homers, 32 RBIs and an .858 OPS in a half-season for the AL East champions.
The Tigers could well end up trading Maybin a third time if he produces and their younger outfielders begin pushing for callups. But for now, Detroit needs Maybin’s production for a moribund offense, as well as his clubhouse presence for a young roster.
Maybin can essentially fill the spot that Nick Castellanos manned before his trade to the Cubs last July. Though Travis Demeritte started in right field for most of the final two months following his trade from Atlanta, his .225 average, .630 OPS and 63 strikeouts in 48 games suggested the 25-year-old could still have some development to do. Victor Reyes batted .304 with a .767 OPS in 69 games, but his outfield versatility could lead to him seeing playing time in all three spots.
Maybin posted 1.6 Wins Above Replacement last year, according to FanGraphs. The only Tigers position player with a greater fWAR last season was Niko Goodrum at 1.9. Reyes was second at 1.6.