Even when he’s not pitching, Joba Chamberlain makes news. He didn’t make an appearance in the ALDS vs. the Twins, and some found it at least curious. Steve touched on it yesterday and so did Ben Kabak. For some reason, I enjoy writing about Joba (and people seem to enjoy rooting for him) so I’ll give my thoughts on the possible paths for Joba.
There are three distinct paths I can envision for Mr. Chamberlain. One is the trade path, one is the back to starting path, and the last is the stay the course as a reliever pat. Two of those three–one and two-require a lot of things to happen, so we’ll discuss them as we move forward.
As Ben noted, Chamberlain is about to be arbitration eligible and that means he’s going to get a raise. If Joba is indeed a reliever, the Yankees may determine he is too expensive (as they did with Melky Cabrera) and ship him on out. At the end of the day, I think this is relatively unlikely. Even though Joba closed on a hot streak, he’s perceived to have had a bad season and his value is most certainly at its lowest. The fact that he had this “mediocre” season out of the bullpen also hurts his trade value. Despite his youth, he’s still “just a reliever” and there isn’t a lot to be had for relievers in trades. Even if the team the Yankees are trading with views Joba as a starter in the future, that team has no incentive to admit that and give the Yankees more in a trade.
Though I brought it up, the Joba-as-starter ship has more or less sailed. There is likely no way that Joba will ever start another game for the New York Yankees. It’s sad to say that, but there are only two real ways that Joba starts again in pinstripes: the Yankees don’t sign Cliff Lee OR Andy Pettitte does indeed retire. If either one of those things happens, I think Joba will at least get a shot to be the fifth starter. I’m not going to hold my breath on it, though, and I encourage you to do the same.
And that brings us to the possibility that is most likely: Joba stays with the Yankees as a reliever. It doesn’t seem that the Yankees will get anything great in a trade for Joba at this point and there isn’t much room for him to start. Hell, even if they want him to start mid-season next year, they can’t; Joba’s out of options and can’t be sent down to stretch himself out. As of right now, he’s worth more to the Yankees as a relief pitcher than he is as a trade piece.