Remember "Joba Rules?" Well, the only rule for Joba Chamberlain nowadays is that all fans must groan collectively when the bullpen door opens and he trudges out.
If we turn the calendar back to 2007, it's hard to believe just how good Chamberlain was right out of the gate. That season, the late call-up struck out 34 batters in 24 innings and allowed a single run for a miniscule 0.38 ERA.
Then Chief Wahoo summoned the midges from Lake Erie and ruined Joba’s career in a postseason loss to the Cleveland Indians. So began Chamberlain’s long, gradual decline; Joe Torre called the midges incident one of his few regrets from his time in New York’s dugout. For Joba, that is just one among a litany of regrets.
In 2008, Chamberlain finished eighth in Rookie of the Year voting (he did not qualify the previous year), with a 4-3 record and 118 Ks in 100.1 IP, including 12 starts. Well thank goodness for "Joba Rules!" Take a moment to either laugh or cry about this.
As a "full-time" starter in 2009, Chamberlain went 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 157.1 IP. Fairly creditable, considering he had been booked for DUI prior to the season, and then his mother was jailed in May for breaking bad with that blue stuff.
In 2010, he moved back to the bullpen, appearing in 73 games but struggling to a 4.40 ERA. Injuries cut short his next two seasons in the pen, as Joba required Tommy John surgery in 2011, followed by a procedure to fix a severe trampoline injury in 2012.
Now it's lucky '13, and Chamberlain is having the worst season of his career. Through June 24, Joba has yielded 11 earned runs in just 17.2 IP (5.60 ERA) for an unsightly 1.70 WHIP.
The death knell sounded for most Yankees fans back on May 12. Chamberlain shushed Mariano Rivera, one of baseball’s best human beings and the undisputed greatest closer of all time, as Mo addressed questions from reporters about meeting with two parents who had recently lost their son in a tragic accident. Joba shrugged the incident off as no big deal and said he did not apologize (per Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork).
In their June 7 victory over the Indians (those of the lake midges), the Yankees prevailed despite Joba serving up a three-run dinger in the 7th inning to Drew Stubbs. Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rivera came on to preserve the 4-3 lead. Said manager Joe Girardi about his bullpen use, "I like Joba there, but I wouldn’t be afraid to match up. I know he struggled a little bit the other day, but I think he is throwing the ball pretty well" (via George King, New York Post).
Since then, he has given up four runs and two longballs in 5.1 IP. He's still striking out more than a batter per inning, but he's allowing nearly two baserunners per inning as well, which is downright awful.
Sadly for the Yanks, Chamberlain will command little value due to a poor recent track record, but he’s only earning $1.875 million this season so at least his expiring contract falls short of being an albatross.
As suggested by the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, an ideal trade partner would likely be a deadline buyer in need of bullpen help, such as the Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks or Texas Rangers. The Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers could also be comfortable landing spots. In return, GM Brian Cashman figures to seek a versatile bench player who can hit lefties (Sherman proposes Philly's Kevin Frandsen, Arizona's Willie Bloomquist and Texas' Jeff Baker).
Hughes is earning $7.15 million in the final year of his deal, but he could move to the bullpen provided the Yanks find sustained success with two among a handful of potential starters (Ivan Nova, Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren and Swiss Army knife David Phelps).
If two of those four can handle a sustained spot in the rotation, they would join CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. Then Hughes would be available to return to the pen where he posted All-Star numbers in 2009.
Thankfully for the bullpen, minor leaguer Preston Claiborne’s cup of coffee has provided a nice jolt. And strikeout maven Shawn Kelley (42 Ks in 27.2 IP) has leapfrogged Chamberlain in the bullpen pecking order.
Boone Logan somehow makes more money than David Robertson, but Houdini has arbitration coming up next season. Logan, by contrast, will be an unrestricted free agent.
Copious question marks surround the Yankees at numerous positions, further intensified by the front office’s determination to get under the luxury tax. Seeing as there is virtually no chance they would want to re-sign Joba in the offseason, they might as well answer that question now and get something in return for him.
Comment or tweet me!