Last night Chad Jennings at the LoHud Yankees Blog posted about Justin Maxwell, and the fantastic spring he's having. Justin's line this spring is .435/.519/.652, and he's within the top 3 Yankees in hits, doubles, runs, RBI, and stolen bases. Everybody should know that spring stats mean very little, especially when talking about a guy that has a line of .201/.319/.379 in 260 MLB plate appearances (all with the Nationals in 2007, 2009, and 2010), but Justin has made people take notice and ask "should the Yankees find a roster spot for him?"
My answer is "no". Not because I don't believe Maxwell could do something for the team, but because I like the roster the Yankees will most likely bring to the regular season. And there's just not room for Justin. Outside of the 8 position players, as well as Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones (who will platoon as the regular DH), there are only 3 bench spots. Eduardo Nunez is almost certainly going to be the utility IF, Eric Chavez is more than likely going to be ARod's regular back-up, and Francisco Cervelli is needed to be the back-up catcher (note: Ibanez or Jones, whoever doesn't DH, will be the OF on the bench).
Even if the Yankees were to go down to 11 pitchers, there's a good chance that the final hitting spot on the roster would go to Chris Dickerson. Dickerson didn't blow anybody away with a batting line of .241/.341/.325 in AAA last season, not to mention the line of .260/.296/.360 he put up with the Yanks in 55 plate appearances last season. But while Chris spent some time in MLB last season, Justin missed 87 games with major throwing shoulder problems last year. Perhaps the missed time and rehab is what Maxwell needed to figure things out. Who knows? But when it comes to the bench I believe the Yankees will go with the safer option.
The problem with Justin Maxwell isn't a matter of wanting to keep him or not. There's no doubt I'd love to see what he could do this season if healthy. But the fact of the matter is he's out of options, and can't be sent to AAA without clearing waivers. And I'd bet everything I have (not that it's much) that some team would pick him up as a 4th OF. So the only thing the Yankees can do with him to get something is through trade. But that's not a great option either, because they aren't going to get much of anything for him. While he'll peak somebody's interest due to his great spring thus far, no team is going to give up much of anything for a guy that had big-time throwing shoulder issues last year, has done little with his 260 MLB plate appearances, and turned 28 this past November.
So as a warning to Yankees fans... don't get all up in arms when Maxwell is traded for a "nobody". The Yankees are in a no-win situation here, so getting anything for Justin will have to do.