Joba Chamberlain

Good Idea

Joel Sherman in today’s Post speculates that the Yankees should trade Hughes and/or Joba for offensive help. He acknowledges that both would be traded when their value is low, but also mentions that there is little chance of either one being in pinstripes next year.

Let’s set Joba to the side right now, he is basically a mediocre middle reliever and those aren’t hard to find. But Hughes is a different pitcher. Sure, he hasn’t been what Yankee fans hoped for, but he is at the very least a guy you can plug into the back of a good rotation and not worry about. That has value and in today’s market where pitching is at a premium, it wouldn’t shock me to see Hughes get five years at at least $10-million per as a free agent.

Now the Yankees probably can’t pay that and get under $189 million. (At least if they sign Cano to an extension they can’t. ) They could keep Hughes for the season and then offer him arbitration and get the draft pick, but the Yankees need to develop a rotation for 2014. It is highly, highly unlikely that they can afford to pay both Kuroda and Pettitte (and that assumes those two want to come back next year) so the 2014 rotation is Sabathia and Phelps right now.

But the Yankees have other arms. Pineda is making his way back. Nuno looked good in his starts. Nova is at AAA and Adam Warren has pitched well out of the pen.  All of these guys could be part of the 2014 rotation, but the Yankees need to see them pitch in the majors regularly and assess them. That means getting rid of at least one current starter and Sabathia, Kuroda and Pettitte will not be that starter. Phelps is a guy they need to evaluate, so that leaves Hughes.

Now, the Yankees could decide they want to keep Hughes around. If that is the case, they should try and sign him now and then worry about breaking in a pitcher or two next season. But what they can’t do is just continue to send Hughes out there every fifth day and then let him walk away after the season. That would be another case of the Yankees not looking at the big picture. With a real payroll ceiling quickly approaching, they can not afford to do that.

Unfair

Joel Sherman has always been a fairly level-headed voice for reason in the insanity that normally surrounds the Yankees. So, I am a bit surprised by his article this morning about the Yankees being tired of Joba’s “act”. I don’t know if the article was one that was planted by Yankee brass or if it is Sherman’s original thinking, but it strikes me a unfair and incorrect.

Let’s start with the ego part. Does Joba have a huge ego? Does he crave attention? Well most professional athletes have bigger than normal egos, it what helps them rise to the top of their game. I couldn’t begin to say if Joba’s ego is bigger than most or not. What I will say is that the two biggest egos in the history of the Yankees were George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson. Both of those guys have plaques hanging in Yankee Stadium (one of them has a ridiculously-sized one) so I don’t think egos are something the Yankees really worry about.

So what are they worried about? Probably the fact that they had three highly-ranked prospects and none of them developed into a frontline starter for the Yankees. They jettisoned Ian Kennedy in a trade. Phil Hughes is still trying to establish himself and then there is Joba. I have a feeling that if you administered truth serum to the Yankees they would admit that they blew it with Joba. They panicked when they turned to him in 2007 as a bullpen arm and then they started messing with him in 2009 to keep his innings down. Through his first 20 starts of 2009 he was 7-2 with a 3.58 ERA. Once they started messing with his innings he fell apart posting a 7.74 ERA over his last 11 starts. Those were the last 11 starts he would make as a Yankee. He moved to the pen full-time in 2010 to protect his arm, got hurt in 2011 and the rest is history.

In light of all of that can you blame him for saying he wants to be a starter? He was fairly good at it once and then there is the money aspect. Starters get big money in free agency, so do closers, but middle relievers do not. Joba knows that and he knows that the next contract he signs will be for a fraction of the amount he once thought he would get. I can’t blame him for being unhappy about that.

Another Bullpen Arm

Word is the Yankees have traded for Shawn Kelley of the Mariners. Abe Almonte heads to Seattle and A-Rod heads to the 60-day DL to make room for Kelley.

Kelley has an option, so he is probably nothing more than bullpen depth at this point, but it is a decent move. Kelley has shown an ability to strike people out in the bigs and he has been surprisingly tough on lefties (he is a righty). His flyball rates could get him into trouble, but Almonte probably is never going to make the majors as anything more than a fill in defender.

The Yankees have some interesting bullpen choices. Assuming health we can put the following names in ink: Rivera, Robertson, Chamberlain and Logan. Clay Rapada  and Caesar Cabral will probably battle in out for the second lefty job.  Rapada is out of options, but Cabral is a Rule 5 pick who would have to be returned to the Red Sox if he doesn’t make the major-league roster. (Though since he was hurt last year he could be put on a 30-day rehab firdt. The loser of the Phelps vs. Nova competition could go to the pen, but could also go to the minors as they both have options. David Aardsma doesn’t have any options left, but Cody Eppley does and they figure to both be battling for a spot.

Considering the strength of the group and the depth of the group, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Yankees trade a reliever for another need. Pure speculation, but if Rapada picks up where he left off and Cabral has a great camp like he did in 2012, Boone Logan gets traded because he will be a free agent after 2013. We shall see.