The Yankees are making a mistake with Joba Chamberlain

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Joel Sherman says that while the Yankees may be talking about how the fifth starter’s job is shaping up as a battle between Job Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, it’s all but Hughes’ job already:

The Yankees never would admit it publicly, but if the season were to
begin today, Hughes would be in the rotation and Joba would be Mariano Rivera’s primary set-up man — and, perhaps, heir apparent . . .

. . . This is not easy for the Yanks. They truly have believed
Chamberlain’s pitch inventory was that of a starter. Plus, they have
endured the criticism of the Joba Rules to navigate to this moment when
he would have few restrictions as a starter.

But by morphing
back into a confident, dart-throwing reliever in the postseason,
Chamberlain has pushed the Yanks to more seriously consider that he
might not have been suffering rotation growing pains and, instead,
simply is more temperamentally built to work out of the pen.

If this is true, and the Yankees have already decided that Chamberlain will be a setup man going forward, then they have all but killed a promising starter’s career before it ever truly began.

The Yankees have never given Chamberlain a true chance in my opinion. Sure, he had 31 starts last year, but that number is deceiving. At the end of July he had an ERA of 3.58 and put together a couple of promising starts. By the end of August, however, the Yankees were limiting his innings, messing
with his rest and generally treating him like some special case.

Sherman’s piece claims that Chamberlain was pitching tentatively and without confidence.  Of course he was! He was being asked to pitch in a way that was foreign to him and anyone else in the game. He had been turned into a four-inning pitcher. He knew going in to every game that
he was going to be yanked early. Such a thing had to mess with his preparation and approach. I believe that to the extent Chamberlain had problems in the second half they were due in large part to being
jerked around.  And really, he’s been jerked around for three years.

Sherman may be right, and it may be inevitable that the Yankees are going to permanently turn Chamberlain into a reliever. I can’t help but think, however, that if they had simply given the guy a
slot in the rotation, left him alone, and allowed him to pitch without putting him under the
microscope, they would be entering spring training with a guy poised to become a top of the rotation starter, not an eighth inning guy.

The Nationals sign Kevin Jepsen

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Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.

Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.

Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.

Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.