Joba Chamberlain’s chance to start will come next year

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Chances are that Joba Chamberlain is entering his final season with the Yankees. While he’s spent the majority of the last two seasons on the disabled list, he’s continued to amass service time and he’ll be eligible for free agency next winter at the tender age of 28.

The news yesterday that Chamberlain still thinks of himself as a rotation candidate makes it even less likely that he’ll remain in pinstripes. The Yankees obviously don’t see him in that role and haven’t for years. For what it’s worth, Chamberlain was far from bad as a starter early in his career, going 12-7 with a 4.18 ERA and 206 strikeouts in 221 2/3 innings over 43 starts. He did struggle to work deep into games, but he was effective more often than not.

Of course, that was before Chamberlain hurt his shoulder. He’s no longer the talent that he was when he entered the league as a brash 21-year-old reliever in 2007. He has been effective while healthy, though, posting a 3.47 ERA and a 46/13 K/BB ratio in 49 1/3 innings the last two years.

Chamberlain is set to be a sixth- or seventh-inning guy for the Yankees in front of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera this year. Perhaps the one thing that would keep him in New York is a stellar setup campaign that would establish him as the heir to Rivera’s job. That might cause the Yankees to ante up and keep him around. If, on the other hand, he matches my guardedly optimistic projection — a 3.30-3.50 ERA in about 60 innings — he figures to be too expensive to re-sign for a non-premium role. And if he ends up struggling, well, then he may be long gone before even hitting free agency.

Regardless, Chamberlain will, for the first time, control his own destiny next winter. If he decides he wants to start, it could well cost him some money, but he shouldn’t have much trouble finding a team willing to give him a shot. For all of his injuries, Chamberlain still throws in the mid-90s as a reliever. He possesses two breaking balls, and he expressed an interest in throwing his changeup more. His ability to hold up as a starter would be in question, but the stuff is there to make him a decent one.

Columnist bashes Bryce Harper’s fundamentals, “write it,” says Nats player

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Tom Boswell of the Washington Post wrote a column over the weekend about how the 2019 Nats are looking really, really good. And for the most part it’s a column that makes a lot of sense. The Nats added some key pieces this offseason and, because so much of their underachieving 2018 season was based on health, particularly in the bullpen, there is reason to be optimistic this coming year.

There is one weird passage in the middle of the column, though: a swipe at Bryce Harper, his fundamentals and his attitude. The upshot: Boswell is arguing that losing Harper to free agency is addition by subtraction:

Though few mention it, subtracting Harper, while it will cost 34 homers, a .899 career OPS and some amazing hair flips, would help any team improve its attention to fundamentals. When the most famous player on the team can’t go 10 days without failing to run out a groundball or overthrowing a cutoff man by 15 feet or throwing to the wrong base or being caught unprepared in the outfield or on the bases, it’s hard to demand total alertness from the other 24.

“Write it,” one prominent Nats vet said.

The “Write it” is what has me most fascinated.

It could possibly be read in two different ways. One way would be for that to be the non-committal reaction of a player when Boswell bounced his Harper-is-a-slacker theory. Saying, in effect, “you write that if that’s your take.” It seems far more likely to me though, that Boswell is echoing the off-the-record sentiments of Harper’s former Nats teammates and the “write it” is an encouraging plea to give public voice to that which the player has chosen not to.

If it is the latter, this would only be the latest of many anonymously-sourced disgruntled sentiments from the Nats clubhouse over the years. Former manager Matt Williams had a full-scare revolt on his hands that made it into the media. Last year Dave Martinez’s clubhouse had someone saying negative things to the press as well, and it was so bad that GM Mike Rizzo sent off a useful reliever — at a time when the Nats really, really needed a useful reliever — because he was the suspected source. If Boswell is giving voice to some anti-Harper sentiment in Nats camp, it’s just more soap opera from a bunch that, historically, can’t seem to handle their issues in-house.

As for the substance: I don’t watch Harper as much as Nats fans do — and I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anyone describe him as some sort of lazy slacker — but sure, there are players who are more fundamentally sound than him. It’s also the case, though, that Harper has always been judged more harshly for his deportment than a lot of players in the league, so I’m not prepared to totally defer to word of mouth — especially anonymous word-of-mouth — to someone slamming him on that stuff.

It’s still pretty interesting, though, that in an offseason in which the average fan’s take is that Manny Machado is the no-hustle slacker who should be avoided, that Machado’s former teammates have had no complaints about him, while Harper’s former teammates seem to have the knives out for him.