Making room for Cameron Maybin

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Like so many of the other injury fill-ins and replacements, Cameron Maybin has done more than anyone could have expected. The purpose of acquiring him was to bridge the gap while Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, and Giancarlo Stanton were on the mend. After that, the expectation was that he’d be off to baseball purgatory: designation for assignment. Instead, Maybin has survived the returns of Hicks and Stanton. For good reason: in 128 plate appearances, the veteran outfielder owns a 135 wRC+ while providing defensive versatility.

Maybin’s play made it easier to demote outfielders Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman, though those two also had options to spare. Given Maybin’s major league tenure, he can’t simply be stashed in Scranton. Now, with Judge’s return looming by the end of this week, could Maybin be the hard luck odd man out? Other teams would certainly be happy to have him, if so.

As it stands, the Yankees are carrying a three man bench: Austin Romine, Gio Urshela, and Brett Gardner. That means they’ve chosen to run with an eight man bullpen, which is partly because they are using an opener instead of a true starting pitcher every fifth day. To keep Maybin around, they’ll have to drop a twelve pitchers.

The way I see it, there are two routes the Yankees can go in order to slim its pitching staff. One is to finally cut ties with Luis Cessa. The other is to option Jonathan Holder or Nestor Cortes and make frequent use of the Scranton shuttle when the bullpen is worn out.

Letting Cessa Go

There’s a pretty easy case to move on from Cessa. First and foremost, his performance has been bad. Since his rookie season in 2016, his ERA has progressively gotten worse: 4.35, 4.75, 5.24, and 6.10 this year. And, aside from what appears to be an anomalous 2018 FIP (3.74), every other campaign has featured a ghastly FIP of 5.52 or worse. Simply put, Cessa is not a good pitcher. Look, every team needs a guy to eat garbage innings, but Cessa struggles to even do that. In his last outing, he relieved CC Sabathia while already down 6-1. His job was to eat innings since the Yankees were using an opener the next day. Instead, Cessa allowed four runs in one inning. The Yankees really needed him to eat a couple of frames and he failed to do so, as seems very common for him.

Performance aside, the Yankees have in-house replacements for Cessa’s role. Cortes and David Hale fit the long-relief profiles just fine, making Cessa a bit redundant. Plus, Cortes and Hale have actually pitched admirably.

The Scranton Shuttle Option

Of course, there’s an alternative to letting Cessa go should the organization’s inexplicable infatuation with him continue. If necessary, the Yankees can option Cortes and Jonathan Holder to Triple-A to make room for Maybin. Holder’s been pretty bad himself and could merit the demotion anyway, though his track record is far better than Cessa’s. Meanwhile, Cortes could get the “bulk” of innings after Chad Green opens tonight, which could result in Cortes getting shipped out.

Assuming the Yankees go the cut Cessa or option Holder/Cortes route, it’s not like the Yankees wouldn’t be able to replenish their bullpen frequently. Aside from Cortes and Holder, here are some names on the 40-man roster that can be retrieved from the minors as needed:

That’s a handful of pitchers who could be a de facto eighth reliever when the Yankees have a tired bullpen. With that many up-and-down guys available, the 10-day option rule shouldn’t be too difficult to navigate either.

Maybin’s Role

Hammerin’ Cameron has made his case to stick around.

Of course, making room for Maybin still leaves us with a pretty big question: what’s his role going to be? He and Gardner would be the fourth and fifth outfielders. It’s not like the Yankees are going to want to sit Judge, Stanton, or Hicks too often. And now with Edwin Encarnación around, using one of the big three outfielders as the designated hitter isn’t an option. The choice would basically be: should Gardner or Maybin play when one of the regulars needs a breather? Either way, one of the two would rarely play. Fifth outfielders just aren’t very common nowadays, especially in the American League.

Even if keeping Maybin around would leave him with a very minimal role, there is some sense to stashing him on the bench. Depth is always good, and it’s not like Judge, Stanton, or Hicks are bastions of health anyway. Sure, Frazier and Tauchman are still around in the minors, and I’d rather play Clint regularly over Maybin should that need arise, but more depth is still better in this case. Plus, by maximizing the Scranton shuttle, the Yankees can sort of carry 13 pitchers anyway. At this point, Maybin’s earned his keep and it would be a mistake to let him go now. Tables could turn later in the year, but the Yankees have don’t need an extra pitcher at all times.

I think this would be a much easier call for the Yankees if they actually had five healthy starters (fix that, please). Now that they’re using an opener pretty regularly, it wouldn’t surprise me if they’re hesitant to drop a pitcher to keep Maybin around. On the other hand, the way hitting coach Marcus Thames talked about Maybin could be taken as a sign that he’ll remain after Judge’s return.

Ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, letting Maybin go wouldn’t be detrimental. They have outfield depth to spare and one would imagine that all three of Hicks, Judge, and Stanton won’t be on the injured list at the same time again this year. Even so, why lose Maybin when there are reasonable alternatives to clear space for Judge’s imminent return? Not only has Maybin earned a spot, but the Yankees should be able to get by with twelve pitchers.


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  1. Mallow

    It’s actually kinda funny but I bet if the Yankees needed to toss Maybin out there on the mound he could probably give the Yankees a serviceable inning, something that is foreign to Cessa.

  2. Netwreck

    Ten games back Maybin had a .350 slugging average. He was a capable fill in, but nothing more. Credit to Cashman and team for finding serviceable guys to plug in when the big guys were injured. He has not, however, reinvented himself at 32 to a degree where he’s a must keep. He’s having a nice hot streak. Let him go or not. If he stays, maybe he plays once or twice a week. Defensively, he can no longer handle CF, and he’s slow on the jump even playing the corners. I’m fine with whatever the Yankees do here. Cut Maybin, cut a reliever. Trust me on this, though. If they cut a reliever and keep Maybin, they will still be cutting Maybin to add back a reliever in short order. His best chance of remaining longer term is if another OFer gets injured, and no one should be rooting for that.

  3. Wire Fan

    I think they keep Maybin through the all star break and then make a decision. The 2nd half stretch is rough, including 19 games in 17 days in August – they’ll need to roster an extra pitcher for that stretch

    The unofficial Yankees press secretary, Jack Curry, has mentioned the idea of sending Cortes down after the game so this is probably the plan. That means they have to patch together a bullpen game on Tues, but they have Thurs and Friday off for the London trip for the bullpen to recover (and the following Monday) . They then have 6 straight prior to the ASB, so they will need one more bullpen game, but Cortes could be recalled by then (and option down someone like Holder heading into the break)

  4. Huckleberry

    If the Yankees are likely to trade Frazier then it would be worth keeping Maybin around as depth for if/when one of the other OFs gets injured again. Cessna may clear waivers and will likely have to be DFA’d later in any case when some of the guys on the 60-day injury list come back. Good to hear that Heller is back facing hitters.

    • Unlikely Cessa clears waivers. Some team or another will put him on their roster. His results stink but there is a reason the Yankees have kept giving him more chances. The tools are there.

      For what it’s worth, Tauchman has more value as depth than Maybin. Maybin can’t realistically play centerfield anymore. Just corner positions. Frazier is preferable in the corners. As for CF, Tauchman is the next one up after Gardner.

  5. This is a solution looking for a problem. You don’t go to extreme lengths to keep a 5th outfielder on the roster. Particularly when you have better options in the minor leagues. Maybin has performed admirably and has resurrected his career. But he’s an average player (at best) on a hot streak with no role on the team. Maybe we can get a lottery ticket prospect for him? That would seem to be a pretty good outcome.

    • Davis wilson

      Agreed. He’s 32 and has never shown this performance level in a full season. See if you can something for him.

      • Stephen

        Maybin can play all 3 of the OF positions and be an average hitter.
        Tauchmann can’t hit and Frazier is a bad corner OFer at this point.
        Gardner can return to everyday play if Hicks/Stanton/Judge get hurt again, but Maybin is probably better than him at this point.

    • chip56

      You’ve clearly forgotten the Shane Robinson era. If you assume Clint Frazier is getting traded, then you’re removing two outfielders from your depth chart. Leaving you with Gardner, Tauchman, and…Billy Burns?

    • Why assume Frazier is traded? It seems possible, but I’ve been hearing he’s gone for literally years now and he’s still with us.

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