Joba Chamberlain Will Be a Free Agent Middle Reliever

"You're not going to be me, not here." - US PRESSWIRE

Can he be a starter or a closer? Not while he's on the Yankees.

Joba Chamberlain is going to be a free agent at the end of this season. He just reminded everyone of that. What Joba is saying is that he thinks he can be more valuable than a middle reliever because middle relievers don't make a lot of money. He wants to be a starter or he wants to be a closer. Those are the money makers and as a 28 year old free agent, he wants to make money. No one can blame him. This shouldn't be a re-ignition of the starter/reliever debate, but it is a warning that unless he has a more important role on the team, he's going somewhere else.

Maybe if Mariano Rivera retires and David Robertson becomes the closer, Chamberlain will be the set-up man, but that's really it. He might want to close, but he's not next in line and the Yankees are certainly not going to pay him closer money. The Yankees aren't even going to make him a starter, even when the Yankees rotation will be emptied after the season. He's not going to get a starter salary. Joba is going to leave the Yankees.

The best that Joba can hope for is a 1-2 year deal from a team that plans to plug him in as a starter and see what he can do. Then if he's successful he can look for a long term lucrative deal. This was a plug for his services as a free agent, not a way to drum up controversy. I don't blame him, but how realistic are his expectations?

Joba claims to have four pitches he can use to be a starter: fastball, slider, curveball, change up. Throughout his career his slider and his curveball have consistently provided the most value, while his fastball and change up have been up and down.

His fastball has been worth -0.20 runs per 100 pitches, but that's mainly because of a weak fastball in 2009 when his velocity was down about 2 miles per hour. His fastball was pretty bad again last year when he was coming back from Tommy John surgery. If you just cut out last year his fastball jumps up to 1.24 runs saved.

His slider has been valued at 1.51 runs saved per 100 pitches, even after having a down year last year. His curveball has been sporadic over the years, leading to a just slightly valuable 0.24 runs saved. His change up has been pretty bad throughout his career, but thanks to an incredible value from last season, it's only been worth -1.54 runs every 100 pitches. Before 2012 it was valued at -11.03 runs per 100 pitches.

Most damning of all is his splits between starting and relieving. He has a career FIP of 4.27 as a starter and a 2.87 as a reliever. He also strikes more batters per inning as a reliever (8.36 vs. 10.04) and even walks less (4.10 vs. 2.73). That's night and day. Based on those numbers alone, teams would be signing a decent back end of the rotation innings eater. It can be argued that a decent starter could be more valuable than a shutdown reliever due to the amount of innings they can provide, but Joba will undoubtably be more effective in the bullpen.

He has a total of 4 saves to his name, so he can't be labeled as a Proven Closer™ and no one is going to pay him the money to be one. The Athletics, Mets, Red Sox, Cubs, and Rays will all lose their closers to free agency at the end of the season. Other pitchers could get injured or become ineffective. Someone is going to pay him to come in and try his hand, but he's only going to get big money if he can prove himself in that role.

A middle reliever is not a sexy profession in Major League Baseball and they aren't paid like they are. However, Joba needs to prove himself, one way or the other, first before he can make the money that he's looking for. The only way to do that is to distance himself from the Yankees and the role he's stuck in. This very well might be the end of Joba Chamberlain as a Yankee.

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