Jason Beck / MLB.com wrote:
Tigers call up Maybin; Monroe out
08/17/2007 8:04 PM ET
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Cameron Maybin wasn't in the Tigers' plans this season. He changed the course.
"This is totally out of the blue," manager Jim Leyland said Friday afternoon.
It was a sudden, daring move that will have longer-term implications in Detroit long after the Tigers finish their weekend series against the Yankees and leave the Bronx. By purchasing Maybin's contract from Double-A Erie and designating the contract of Craig Monroe for assignment, they've started the big league career of someone general manager Dave Dombrowski calls the best young position player he has had in any organization, while bidding farewell to one of last year's heroes, a clutch hitter during Detroit's run to the World Series last year.
Leyland called it "highly unlikely" that Maybin would go back to the Minors this year. If he reaches his five-tool potential quickly enough, he might not be back in the Minors again. He's about as close as Dombrowski has had to a can't-miss player. Judging by reports from scouts outside the organization, Dombrowski said, he's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player.
"We're in a pennant race," Dombrowski said. "It's not like we're in a situation where we can bring a guy up and just let him go out there and not perform. We think he can help us perform. Only time will tell."
The time became now for Maybin based on a torrid week at Double-A Erie, where he landed last week after spending much of the season at Class A Lakeland. Before the season began, club officials decided he would spend the entire season in the Minors, and they were sticking to the plan as recently as last week.
But the lanky 20-year-old homered in four of his first five games with the SeaWolves and was 8-for-17 before finally going hitless Thursday night at Reading. Even then, Dombrowski said, he hit a fly ball to the warning track in center field against the wind.
That goes with the multi-faceted athleticism that the Tigers knew he had when they selected him with the 10th overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. While his power has made headlines, he also boasts blistering speed that allows him to cover center field defensively while stealing 25 bases in 31 attempts for Lakeland. Add in a strong throwing arm, and he has what scouts and coaches alike consider to be a complete package in the making.
At the same time Maybin began tearing up Double-A pitching, the Tigers had pro scout Mike Russell at Erie. After one game, as Dombrowski recalled the story, Russell told player personnel director Scott Reid that Maybin could help Detroit now. After watching him for four more games, Russell's recommendation didn't change.
"I really was not even thinking about bringing him up in September," Dombrowski said. "Who knows? Maybe it's just one of those hot streaks right now. But when guys have more than one person talk ..."
Leyland didn't enter the conversation until the last couple days, when Dombrowski and assistant GM Al Avila discussed the idea with him. Considering Leyland has always talked about talent above all else, he didn't need a lot of convincing.
"All I know is that if we're wrong, then so was every other club that we ever talked to about trades since I've been here."
-- Jim Leyland
"I think he's a big deal to us," Leyland said. "There's some risk to it, but I also think there's some big-time gains to it ...
"All I know is that if we're wrong, then so was every other club that we ever talked to about trades since I've been here. Because every time we've talked about a trade, he is the first name to come up."
With that, Maybin and his talent was inserted into the middle of a pennant race that already had its share of drama.
"I'm excited to watch him play myself," Dombrowski said before the game. "I think this guy has a chance to be a player for the Detroit Tigers that helps us win championships for a lot of years."
Though he has played exclusively in center field this season except for Spring Training, he made his Major League debut Friday night in left. That's where he'll receive the majority of his playing time, sharing the corner with Marcus Thames. Leyland wrote him into the second spot in the lineup Friday against Andy Pettitte, and plans to start him somewhere in the order Saturday afternoon against Roger Clemens.
While Maybin hit up a storm for Erie, Monroe could not hit his way out of the funk that has enveloped him for much of the season. After leading the team in home runs last year, he was batting just .222 with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs in 99 games. His .637 OPS -- on-base plus slugging percentages -- ranked fourth lowest in the American League among players with at least 350 plate appearances. He hit .183 (29-for-143) with 39 strikeouts over his last 44 games.
"That's a hard one, because I became pretty close to him," Leyland said. "I like him a lot."
Monroe essentially lost his starting role in left field to Thames last month. Even after Thames went on the disabled list, Monroe shared time in left field with utilityman Ryan Raburn. He had missed the last three games while dealing with the flu virus that has worked its way around the clubhouse.
"If they wanted to make this move, somebody had to go," Leyland said. "That's the ugly part of the business. He won't be out of work long, I know that. But a lot of this comes out of the fact that we think Maybin is part of our future. And obviously the scouts, the manager and other people thought he was ready to come up now."
The Tigers have 10 days to either trade or release Monroe. Judging from the response he has received from other teams, Dombrowski said he believes they'll have a chance to trade him.
"It is with mixed emotions," Dombrowski said, "because Craig has done a lot for our organization. Last year, in particular, was a big year for him and for us. He had a lot of big hits. There will always be a lot of memories of what he did. I think in Craig's case, this year, for whatever reason, he started to scuffle, and then he started to scuffle mentally.
"What also contributed for us when we looked at it was, unfortunately, the way it has gone, we don't see him snapping out of it with us because of the pressure aspect of it. A change of scenery would be beneficial for him. I think he will snap out of it, because I know he's a lot better player than how he's been playing right now."