Last week, Steve throughly and cogently argued the case for Alfredo Aceves winning the competition for the Yankees’ lone available rotation slot. Today, I present 5 reasons why I believe that Joba Chamberlain is the only logical choice for that role.
1) Joba has the highest upside: Quite simply, Joba Chamberlain has the highest ceiling of the five options. While Aceves or even Gaudin might provide more predictable performance, only Joba (and to a lesser extent, Hughes) has the capability to turn into something much greater than a 5th starter type. For a team with 4 starters that have thrown at least 200 innings more than a few times over recent years, it makes sense to go with upside over stability in that 5th starter role.
2) There is more to lose if Joba is not in the rotation: Starting Aceves rather than Joba carries a much greater risk than allowing Joba to start. If Joba is put into the rotation and fails, he can simply be replaced with one of the other options, with no real long-term repercussions to follow. There is no real negative consequence to moving Aceves back and forth between roles. Conversely, if Joba starts the season in the bullpen, he is unlikely to pitch enough innings to allow him to properly continue his development, even if he was returned to the rotation mid-season. He would likely finish with a maximum of 100-110 innings, and would almost certainly be on an innings limit in 2011, which leads me to my next point.
3) The Yankees will likely be searching for starters next offseason: The only Yankee starters that are locked in to the 2011 rotation are CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. Depending on the performance and contract demands of Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez, the Yankees will be looking for anywhere from 1-3 starters next offseason. Having Joba Chamberlain established as a starter would go a long way towards allowing the Yankees to efficiently fill those empty slots. If the Yankees could have Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes providing quality innings at a low cost, it would allow them to invest in a player such as Cliff Lee. A rotation of Sabathia, Burnett, Vazquez or Lee, Chamberlain, and Hughes (on an innings limit) would be expensive but dominant at the top and cost efficient and effective at the bottom.
4) He may be the best of the five right now: While Joba was inconsistent and occasionally awful last season, his overall body of work as a starter suggests that even if you ignore upside, he may be the best option of the five right now. Matt looked at the projections for Chamberlain, and found that the average projection has him notching a 4.10 ERA, 1.4332 WHIP, and 3.95 FIP in 2010. I have a hard time believing that any of the others would beat that line. Of course, some might argue that putting Joba in the bullpen will also improve that area of the team, but I think that it really would not make for an appreciable difference. Having Joba and Hughes in the bullpen at the expense of the rotation seems to be a bit of overkill. A bullpen with Rivera, Hughes, Marte, Park, Robertson, and Aceves should be excellent, and throwing Joba in there at the expense of his development is uneccessary.
5) What Were The Joba Rules For?: The Yankees have carefully managed Chamberlain’s workload for three seasons to reach the moment where he can freely pitch as many innings as the club needs from him. Now that they have reached that moment, it seems silly to stick him back in the bullpen or send the minors. I am not suggesting that the Yankees stick with their plan for Joba blindly. Rather, I believe that the fact that 1) Joba still has the greatest upside and 2) might actually be the best pitcher for the job in 2010, makes sticking with the development plan the most logical and prudent choice. It is time to see whether Joba Chamberlain can be a long-term answer in the Yankees rotation.
Do you agree?