(The following was originally published at SB*Nation’s Pinstriped Bible)
Starter, closer or middle relief? For as long as he has worn pinstripes, Joba Chamberlain’s role on the Yankees’ pitching staff has been the subject of intense debate, which the righty himself re-ignited yesterday. Although GM Brian Cashman brushed aside Chamberlain’s remarks, perhaps he should start taking them more seriously? If the Yankees want to salvage what remains of Joba’s value, it’s time for him to be a closer or a starter…on another team.
Blame whomever or whatever you want for his lack of development, but at this point, Chamberlain is too far down the depth chart at both starter and closer to merit either job in pinstripes. However, it’s easy to understand why he wants to gravitate toward the beginning or end of the game. That’s where the action is. The money is there as well. An impending free agent, the right hander realizes that a big payday won’t be in his future unless starting or closing games is as well.
Just because Chamberlain will likely never start of close for the Yankees, doesn’t mean he won’t fulfill that role on another team. If he can stay healthy and be effective in middle relief, Chamberlain should have several interested suitors when he hits the open market after this season. Some of them may envision the right hander as their closer. Others may be anxious to see how he performs as a starter. In other words, come this winter, Chamberlain, not the team for which he plays, will have the final say on his position.
There’s little chance that Chamberlain will be back in the Bronx next season. Joba knows it, and the Yankees do too. So, why not expedite that eventuality? Although an effective Chamberlain would contribute to the Yankees in middle relief, if other teams believe he is ready for a bigger role right now, Cashman may be able to extract even more value using the righty as a trade chip.
Aside from his talent, there’s another reason why Chamberlain might be attractive to other teams: he is cheap. With a salary of only $1.9 million, a team in need of a closer or starter could do much worse than rolling the dice on Joba, especially when you consider year two after Tommy John surgery is when pitchers fully recover. Granted, some of his value is lessened by impending free agency, but if a team really believes in Chamberlain, they could use his walk year as an opportunity to get a look at him up close and personal. Also, if Joba blossoms, the acquiring team would have the opportunity to offer him a qualified contract, which would provide draft pick compensation should he leave after only one season (provided the deal is consummated before Opening Day).
Chamberlain could still be a significant contributor to the Yankees in middle relief, so by no means should they just give him away. On the other hand, they also can’t expect to extract a big return. However, if the Yankees can find an interested team willing to meet them in the middle, they shouldn’t be hesitant about making a deal. Sure, when you consider his initial promise, they’d be selling low, but it doesn’t really matter that he was one of the most coveted young pitchers five years ago. Unless the Yankees make a dramatic reversal regarding his role on the team, their relationship with the right hander is coming to an end this year anyway. Unfortunately, Joba Time didn’t workout as he, the team and its fans had hoped. It’s time to re-start the clock in another organization.