Last night Jon Heyman tweeted “Joba is out of the Yanks rotation debry.” The basis for this? The news that Chamberlain will pitch an intra-squad game today while Phil Hughes will pitch against the Phillies in Clearwater. Left out of this is the fact that the intra-squad game and the need to get both pitchers work today were necessitated by yesterday’s rainout. Rather than some exile or demotion, the intra-squad game will include Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera who I think we can assume aren’t fighting for jobs. Nothing in any story I could find suggests that the Yankees have made any decisions about the fifth starter yet.
I’ll give Heyman a bit of the benefit of the doubt based on the fact that you can’t fit in a ton of context in a 140-character tweet, but at the moment there doesn’t seem to be anything to support this claim that Joba has lost the job already. Steve at TYU says that Heyman has been squarely in the anti-Joba camp for some time and thinks that his tweet is an exercise in sensationalism.
I’m a bit removed from all the Kremlinology that surrounds Yankees’ personnel decisions, but it does seem like there are a lot of people who think about the fifth starters’ race in terms of politics rather than baseball and simply believe on some primal level that Chamberlain is a relief pitcher and shouldn’t be considered for the job. Which makes little sense considering that Joba was a starter throughout high school, college and the minors prior to his callup in 2007 and that he throws four pitches.
As I said last week, this all seems like a lot of fuss over nothing. I have a mild preference for Chamberlain as the starter simply because I think he stands a chance to be a better pitcher than Hughes in the long run, but the fact of the matter is that no matter what happens this spring both of these guys are likely to start games for New York this year and both will probably be starters if someone gets injured, if Javier Vazquez leaves after this year or whenever it is that Andy Pettitte decides to retire. Which is probably going to be after this year.
Free agent left-hander Rich Hill is rumored to be entertaining a three-year, $40+ million offer from the Dodgers, reports Peter Gammons. The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo corroborated the report, adding that Hill could receive somewhere between $46 and $48 million from his former team.
Hill, 36, pitched to a 2.12 ERA and 3.91 FIP in back-to-back stints with the Athletics and Dodgers in 2016. While a chronic case of blisters on his pitching hand limited the frequency of his starts, he still figures to be one of the most productive and noteworthy starting pitchers on the market this winter.
The Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers and Astros have all been mentioned as potential suitors for the left-hander’s services, though Orioles’ GM Dan Duquette said the club has yet to make a play for Hill and ESPN’s Jim Bowden pointed out that the Red Sox are less involved in trade talks than other interested parties.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.