Arbitration Case: Joba Chamberlain


This play will never get old. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

While all the fun comes in trying to figure out who the Yankees will sign as free agents and how much they’ll pay them, we can’t forget that they have quite a few players already in house that need new contracts. Phil Hughes is the team’s most notable player heading into his first season of arbitration eligibility, and we broke down his case yesterday. We can’t forget about his running mate Joba Chamberlain though, he’s headed to arbitration for the first time as well.

Joba’s in a unique spot because he’s bounced back and forth between the rotation and bullpen. The Yankees have explicitly stated on more than one occasion that he’s a reliever going forward, so that’s the role and demographic we”ll use as a basis for his 2011 salary. He’s not a closer, so we have to compare Joba to some other non-closers when they were headed into their first season of arbitration. Here’s a list of some statistical comparables that I dug up…

A few of these guys are closers now but weren’t before they hit arbitration for the first time. Broxton had just taken over that role for the Dodgers midway through his final pre-arbitration season, so he’s the outlier here, evidenced by his relatively massive raise. Saves equal money, no matter how dumb the stat is. The average first year arbitration salary and percent raise in the table are a weighted average based on innings. Players that threw more innings should have a bigger impact on our end result, and this ensures they do.

I’m extremely pleased with how close the strikeout and walk numbers are, and the differences in saves (which don’t matter much anyway) and ERA+ are not outrageous. Applying that 232.3% raise to Joba’s 2010 salary of $487,975, we get a projected 2011 salary of $1,133,566. That’s reasonable for an above average short reliever his first time through the process, in fact it might even be a tad generous.

Here’s the thing though: we can’t completely forget about all the time Joba logged as a starting pitcher because his agent sure won’t during negotiations. In fact, just 37.3% of Joba’s career innings (131.2) have come as a reliever. The other 221.2 IP have been as a starter. If we use the 684.4% raise applied to Hughes yesterday, then Joba’s staring at a $3,339,701 payout next season. Let’s combined the two projected salaries (starter and reliever) based on the percentage of innings he’s thrown in each role…

(37.3% x $1,133,566) + (62.7% x $3,339,701) = $2,516,813

That seems too high and frankly the ~$1.13M from earlier seems a little too low, so let’s split the difference and call it $1.825M. As you can see, we take great pride in our accuracy.

In all seriousness though, that salary passes the sniff test and seems appropriate for a player of Joba’s caliber and with his level of accomplishment. Of course it’s entirely possible that none of this will matter to the Yankees. Joba’s name figures to pop up in trade rumors this winter, and if they pull the trigger on a deal, then he and his 2011 salary become another team’s responsibility. Either way, the the days of getting cheap production out of Chamberlain are pretty much over.

Categories : Players
  • Chris

    In fact, just 37.3% of Joba’s career innings (131.2) have come as a reliever.

    It would probably be better to adjust it based on time (i.e. team games, or days) in each role, rather than innings. That would work out to roughly 50/50 as a reliever vs a starter, and suggest a salary at just over $2M.

  • MattG

    Broxton’s relatively massive raise would indicate that the current role is highly significant, and a weighted system that divides innings by role is not used. In the case of Joba Chamberlain, that would be appropriate. He is not a swing man who’ll do 2/3rds his work as a starter–he is a reliever because he failed to succeed as a starter, and he should be compared to similar players.

    I am sure Cashman will provide a convincing argument, if it comes to that.

  • Monteroisdinero

    Mariano is happy to have Joba around. Good Joba-security :-)

  • Gmat2

    That play was awesome. I think there may be some residual effects on local Richter Scales that are still occurring.

  • Do Not Feed The Trolls!

    Joba + Montero + Gardner for Hanely

    Do it Cashman and whoever the GM of the Marlins is.

    • nathan

      Not enough, you have to atleast throw in two pitching prospects and may be ROmine as well.

      • OldYanksFan

        NOT WORTH IT! Yeah, Hanley is a premium bat at a premium position, but Jesus might outhit him, and be (at least) a BUC. Then we have to pay big bucks to replace Gardy and maybe get another C.

        Joba + Montero + Gardner is a LOT of production for very little money… not to mention Hanley’s salary. If Montero’s bat is any good, we have a very decent offense going forward. Better to put our money into pitching.

        • nathan

          Absolutely. But thats what Florida might want and given he is signed through his prime many teams can top that offer.

          I think its better to reconcile with the fact that we will have a slap hitting SS who GIDPs a lot over the next 2 years in our lineup.

          I dont think Cashman or Hal for that matter want to lose any of these pre-arb players given the impending monstrosity of a contract that they have to give to Lee.

          • Monteroisdinero

            A slap hitting SS who doesn’t ground into as many dp’s and has better range=Eduardo Nunez.

            Not $18M worse than DJ the next 3 years.

            • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              A slap hitting non-hitting SS who doesn’t ground into as many dp’s and has better range=Eduardo Nunez.


            • nathan

              My only problem with Nunez is that this is not Cano replacing Womack situation. If Nunez replaces DJ they will expect Hanley numbers from him and i think Nunez’ career year will not match most average SS’ years.

              Based on the stats I just dont think Nunez is a starting SS. But right now how much worse is Nunez compared to 2010 Jeter? I donno. But i am sure the Yanks wont find that out.

  • Hughesus Christo

    Could this be a reason why they were so open about him being a reliever a few weeks ago? To keep his contract down in arbitration this season?


    • Do Not Feed The Trolls!

      Giving on Joba the starter was one of the hardest things I had to do. I suggest you do also.


      • The Big City of Dreams

        It seems like those that want him as a starter will never let it go.

        • jsbrendog (returns)

          what bothers me is that he didn’t fail as a starter. he wasn’t given full opportunity

          • Clay Bellinger

            Yep, and those 12 starts in ’08 before the shoulder injury will always have me wondering what might have been. It would be one thing if he was lights out when he went back to the pen last year, but between him being a mediocore reliever and a not-so-bad starter, you have to wonder why a return to the rotation isn’t even being considered.

            • The Big City of Dreams

              “you have to wonder why a return to the rotation isn’t even being considered.”

              The belief among some Yankee fans is the Yankees know something we don’t you know they have determined that he can’t hold up as a starter. The thing is if that’s the case why go through the whole song and dance of the ST battle. If you go back and look it seems like he going back to pen was in the works before they even went to spring.

              • Clay Bellinger

                Yeah, that’s what I assume. The Yanks may have been advised that he will not hold up in the long run as a starter. Form their end, there’s obviously no reason to make that public knowledge.

                • The Big City of Dreams

                  True if that’s the case it’s not wise to make that public knowledge but why go through the whole song and dance of a battle during ST? And if they do intend to trade him down the line what other team is going to go head over heels for a middle reliever.

          • The Big City of Dreams

            Yea that’s the thing contrary to popular belief he didn’t fail as a starter. Ppl love to harp on his 2009 stats but yet they completely ignore what he did in 2008. I understand 09 is a larger sample size but as a whole he had 43 career starters. Lol 43 career starts is enough to determine yea this starting thing is not going to work out smh. I still hope they trade him but I don’t think it’s going to happen. They seem to have a we’ll show you attitude.

            • Steve H

              And he wasn’t bad in 2009 for a young starter in his first full season in the rotation. In the AL East. He hit a wall down the stretch (while they were screwing with his starts and innings.

              • The Big City of Dreams

                Yep that is true he wasn’t terrible as a starter in 09. Ppl also ignore how he was handled down the stretch that season. Yea it was Joba that pulled himself out of games after 3 innings. He was the one that put himself on long rest, normal rest, long rest, and then normal rest again. Now what we have is a middle reliever with inconsistent stuff

      • YankeesJunkie

        Yeah, it does suck. Especially when he was a starter in 2008 that was just awesome especially when he beat Beckett. Sadly, Joba will only start if he is wearing another team´s uniform.

    • nathan

      The Yanks are not doing that for arb reasons. They are doing that because either he has some mystery injury or they have given up trying to coach him. Sad either way.

      I really dreamt that one day we would have Wang, Joba, Phil in our rotation for good.

      • Mickey Scheister

        Huh, huh, you said Wang, Phil, Joba…huh, huh…

        • nathan

          I didnt mean 1,2,3 in that order but am just saying was hoping for a home grown rotation fronted by them.

    • Mickey Scheister

      It does fit the bill of the Mind Ninja Master, Cashman as far as pegging him as a middle/late reliever when going to arb to save some cash. He could still be a viable option to start games, I was disappointed that last year they didn’t send him to the minors, during the window of opportunity they had, to stretch him out to start. They’ve played so many mind games with Joba, it really wouldn’t surprise me. I would love to see him get traded and an opportunity to start elsewhere since that ship has sailed with NYY, according to Cashman & Co. If he is the heir-apparent to Mo, those are some shoes no one man should have to fill, I could see a free-agent replacement, should Mo retire sooner than later. In turn, playing even more mind games with Joba.

  • Gmat2

    I know the trade value for him isn’t high, but do you think, given the direction of the reliever market, teams will view him in a better light because of the low salary and potential to start again? It wouldn’t be a huge difference, but maybe the Yanks can get a better return on him than we think.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      True you never know when it comes to trades. We all give our opinion on potential deals and then get surprised when someone gets traded for less or more than we thought.

  • OldYanksFan

    I still think Joba has value, and may still be a quality BP guy. With Mo having just 1 or 2 more years, I would hold onto Joba. In trade, we will never get back his potential value.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      But what are the chances he becomes Mo or is even half of what Mo is. Does anyone honestly think if they can get a premier closer they will pass because they have Joba. This is the same club that offered Montero for Soria.

      • nathan

        This is the same club that offered Montero for Soria

        — wasnt that the lovely Heyman rumor.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          Heyman is more often right than wrong. They were willing to offer Montero for Lee would it surprise another if they offered him for Soria

          • nathan

            Yes, one is a bonafide #1 starter. The other is a reliever who had no role in the Yankee BP.

            If that rumor was not Heyman whistling out of his rear I donno what else is.

            And the only time you can rely on Heyman is if it concerns a Free Agent player represented by Boras.

            Again, Cash$$ would have had to been on coke to offer that deal. I would believe if it were part of a bigger deal involving Grienke, no way he offered Montero for Soria, bank on that.

            • The Big City of Dreams

              No role in the BP??? he would have been the set-up man for the Yankees and then the replacement for Mo whenever that happens.

              • whozat

                …except that Joba was the 4th best pitcher in the pen last year. He lost the setup job to DRob, Boone Logan and then Kerry Wood.

                • The Big City of Dreams

                  Yes he did lose his role to those guys

              • nathan

                And why would Soria agree to caddy Mo when he is a closer already (pretty good one at that).

                Please dont say to win or come to the Yankees, he is not 36, the future money from being a closer >>> caddying for Mo or the Yanks.

                Soria would have no role in Yankee BP.

                • The Big City of Dreams

                  If he came to the Yankees he would have no choice but to caddy to Mo. It doesn’t matter anyway because the deal or “Jon Heyman rumor” never happened.

          • Joe Pawlikowski

            1) I suggest you go through Heyman’s track record.

            2) That Montero for Soria thing was a game of telephone gone bad. Did not happen.

  • Luis Sojo the Pasta Eating Machine

    I would think the only reason a team would trade for Joba at this point would be to make him a starter. He’s no longer going to be a cheap reliever and I’ve got to believe there’s a team out there that thinks they can turn him into a top of the rotation guy or at least get some decent innings out of him as a starter.

    I really don’t understand why they didn’t (supposedly) want to include him in a Haren trade if they don’t see him as more than a career relief pitcher…

    • whozat

      It’s bizarre. And, if they are going to look at trading him…why wouldn’t they say they’re still considering him a starter? The ONLY things that publicly calling him a reliever do are potentially lower his arby award and lower his trade value. The downside of the latter, if they’re looking at trading him, seems to outweigh the upside of the former.