There are two angles to this story. The first is that with the acquisition of Justin Upton, Cameron Maybin became expendable in Anaheim — despite providing a ton of value during Mike Trout’s absence. The second is that the Houston Astros add an average hitter to provide backup to an already good outfield lineup.
Here’s the current Astros outfield configuration:
Houston Astros OF 2017
And this is what Maybin brings to the table:
Cameron Maybin 2017
Sans Fisher, the Astros outfield is pretty decent. Their Total Averages and wOBA are above the season’s average, and they’re producing good value by fWAR. If we hold them by these stats, then adding Maybin doesn’t make much sense.
Just look at their 15-day rolling wOBA over the past two years.
As you can see -- and again sans Fisher -- the current Astros outfield has a wOBA around .300. Maybin, however, has been below that .300 mark since mid-June -- which gives us an idea why the Los Angeles Angels dealt him in favor of Justin Upton.
However, if we go back to the previous tables and look at each player’s Fielding Runs Above Average, then that gives us a better idea about why GM Jeff Luhnow placed a claim on Maybin. With a FRAA of 2.9, Maybin is a far better defender than any of the current outfielders in Houston.
What this does, then, is provide A.J. Hinch with a defensive replacement for later innings — a strategy the Kansas City Royals employed during their 2014 and 2015 pennant runs and many other teams have adopted.
If this is the case, then claiming Maybin off waivers makes complete sense. It provides Houston with a better defensive option in later innings without having given up anything in exchange. However, will he provide the necessary boost to push Houston to a deep playoff run? I doubt it — that boost would be provided by Verlander instead. Maybin’s just a supporting character, and one who has the ability to make some plays for the ‘Stros.
In the end, what moves Houston didn’t do in July, they went out and did in August. The fact that they didn’t surrender any players to acquire him is a plus, as it left the farm system intact so they could get Verlander and still compete in the future. Maybin is not the piece that will get them over the hill, but it does improve what is becoming a really scary lineup.
Stats current 9/1.
Martin Alonso writes for Beyond the Box Score and BP Bronx and is constantly geeking out over baseball and Star Wars. You can find him on Twitter at @martnar.