Eight months after he was designated for assignment, Justin Maxwell would be a very good fit for the Yankees.
He’s 29 years old. He’s making the league minimum. He bats right handed. He hit .272/.387/.505 against lefties last season. He can play all three outfield positions. He can run, he can hit for power, and he’s had success as a pinch hitter. He’s exactly what the Yankees are looking for in a fourth outfielder, and at this time last year, the Yankees had him on the roster.
Last spring, they let Houston have him for nothing. They let Maxwell go in favor of Andruw Jones.
Nothing about that decision that’s not regrettable.
Now for the reason this post is unfair:
For whatever reason, I spent a lot of time talking to Maxwell last spring. We talked about college basketball. We talked about the places where we grew up. We talked about the International League, where he’s spent time as a player and I’d spent time as a writer. I liked Maxwell. He was friendly, the people I knew in Scranton raved about him, and it was impossible to see a guy with such obvious athletic ability and not think he could be a very good big league baseball player.
But even I didn’t think the Yankees should have kept him over Jones.
Those who did want the Yankees to keep Maxwell conveniently ignored the fact that he had missed most of the 2011 season with an injury, and they ignored the fact that he’d been given several chances in the big leagues only to produce a .201/.319/.379 career slash line. They ignored the fact that spring training numbers are often meaningless, and that Jones had been absolutely perfect for the Yankees in 2011, hitting .286/.384/.540 with an especially good second half.
Given their needs and their roster — and the fact Maxwell was out of options — the Yankees made the decision that made sense, and it hurt them. It continues to hurt them. Maxwell’s breakout season came at the same time that Jones hit rock bottom.
I can’t fault the Yankees for the decision, but I can’t help noticing that Maxwell would look pretty good on this roster right about now.
Associated Press photo