Determining Joba’s Trade Value (Part I)

A roar from Hank but a looser Front Office
KLaw's Top 100 Prospects

Earlier this week Brian Cashman acknowledged that Joba Chamberlain hasn’t been the same since his 2008 shoulder injury, something that was pretty obvious to all. For whatever reason, that was followed by a lot of “trade him now” discussion, a logic jump I’m not quite sure I understand. Anyway, I wanted to take a stab at determining his trade value since given all the opinions out there.

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

We’re going to do this two ways. In this post I’ll bust out my slide rule and figure it Joba’s trade value the ol’ sabermetric way, and in another post later today I’ll dig up some similar players and see what they were traded for and use that as a comparison. Not terribly accurate, no, but that’s never stopped us before.

Last season Joba was worth 1.4 fWAR because his strong strikeout (9.67 K/9), walk (2.76 BB/9, 2.51 uIBB/9), and homerun (0.75 HR/9) rates led to a 2.98 FIP, 35th best among the 124 relievers that through at least 50 IP. Some unfortunate luck on the BABIP (.327) and strand rate (66.6%) fronts made his ERA (4.40) a lot worse than the underlying performance says it should have been.

You might disagree, but I think it’s fair to say that those strikeout, walk, and homer rates are indicative of Joba’s true talent level, or at least serve as a rough approximation of it. Even if he regresses some and is a 3.30 FIP reliever, that’s still a valuable piece. The problem going forward is that he can only be so valuable as a middle reliever, especially since Mariano Rivera will be sticking around as closer. Joba’s average Leverage Index last year was 1.22, but he was an eighth inning for half the season. With Rafael Soriano on board, Joba figures to work the six and/or seventh innings.

Going forward, I think 1.4 fWAR might be the upper bound of Joba’s value because of his reduced role. There’s also the potential for improved performance since he spent last season at just 24 years old, so 1.4 fWAR might be underselling his future worth. To be slightly conservative, I’m going to keep it constant going forward, assuming he doesn’t have a big contract push in store for 2013. Teams have gone back to paying about $5M per win this offseason, so a 1.4 fWAR reliever would theoretically fetch $7M per year on the open market. Since Joba’s under team control for the next three seasons, his total value is $21M given our assumptions.

Now we have to consider the money being paid to him, since that decreases his value. Joba will earn $1.7M in 2011 before getting raises in both 2012 and 2013, assuming he isn’t non-tendered. Arbitration salaries are typically estimated with a 40/60/80 breakdown, meaning 40% of value in year one, 60% in year two, and 80% in year three. That $1.7MM salary means Joba is starting at just 25% of expected value in year one though, so perhaps 50% in year two and 70% in year three would be more accurate. That would put his next three salaries at just $1.7M (fixed), $3.5M, and $4.9M, respectively. They sound reasonable, so let’s go with them.

All we have to do to figure out Joba’s trade value is subtract his salary from his production, so that’s…

$21M – ($1.7M + $3.5M + $4.9M) = $10.9M

Let’s call it $11M just to make it a nice round number. We’re not splitting atoms here, we can fudge a little.

According to Victor Wang’s research, Joba would be able to fetch a pitching prospect that you’d find towards the back of the top 100 list in a trade, which is someone below the Manny Banuelos/Andrew Brackman/Dellin Betances level but above the Hector Noesi/David Phelps/Adam Warren level. He could also get you a full year of Edwin Jackson, assuming Jackson sustains last year’s 3.8 fWAR pace ($10.5M surplus value). If you want to shoot for the moon, you could couple Joba with a Grade-B position player prospect ($5.5M value according to Wang) like Brandon Laird and get Dan Haren, as long as you believe Haren can maintain last year’s 4.5 fWAR pace over the last two guaranteed years of his contract. That’s a reasonable expectation, and would generate $16M in surplus value. We can play this game all day if we want, but that gives you can idea of where his value stands.

Joba’s trade value looks great in a spreadsheet, but that’s not where this stuff actually happens. That’s why were going to look at comparable trades later today, and I have a feeling that will get a little closer to reality.

A roar from Hank but a looser Front Office
KLaw's Top 100 Prospects
  • Monteroisdinero

    That pic is painful to look at. Horrible mechanics from Joba. The insiders know it. Injury (reinjury) waiting to happen. And who knows about the mentality issues.

    /sorry Joba fans

    • Mike Myers

      The “upside down W” AKA the mark Prior? I forgot who called it that.

      • Monteroisdinero

        Sounds about right. The body facing 3B and the slingshot/whipping motion of the arm because the body is misaligned. A ticking timebomb for the pitching arm.

    • Steve H

      And who knows about the mentality issues.

      Not you for one.

      • AndrewYF

        He doesn’t even know about Joba’s mechanics. It’s hilarious to think that someone can determine a pitcher’s mechanics are bad from a still-shot. Almost as hilarious as diagnosing a brain-dead person ‘high-functioning’ by watching a video of them looking at a balloon.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          I have heard ppl break down Joba’s mechanics by looking at a still shot. But the guy that did it has worked with pitchers for a number of yrs. Not sure of Monteroisdinero is one of those ppl but….

        • Pasqua

          Wow. Beautifully placed Bill Frist reference.

      • Monteroisdinero

        or you. At least that’s how Bexy responds when she disagrees with me. I will side with the Yankee coaching staff and experts that Joba is not a starter. Good enough for me. Blaming his mechanics and mental makeup works for me cause it ain’t his talent that’s to blame.

        • Steve H

          Blaming his mechanics and mental makeup works for me cause it ain’t his talent that’s to blame.

          And I blame drinking two cups of coffee a day on this winters massive snow fall. Works for me.

          • jsbrendog (returns)

            i blame you for the gas i’m experiencing. works for me

            • jsbrendog (returns)


              • Steve H

                You’re right.

        • bexarama

          Blaming mentality is dumb. WTF is with all the me-bashing lately?

          • king of fruitless hypotheticals

            some boys dont like it when girls know as much (or more) than they do :(


        • pete

          blaming his mechanics and mental makeup for what, though?

          I blame his lack of recent success on the injury, which I blame 1000000% on Pudge Rodriguez.

          I also think he still has a perfectly resurrectable career as a starter.

          • The Big City of Dreams

            I agree unfortunately it will be with another team not the Yankees

  • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

    The ‘trade him’ stuff must just come from people who are tired of thinking/talking about Joba and want to see Joba get a chance to start somewhere, instead of thinking primarily about what’s best for the Yankees.

    • Matt Imbrogno

      I wouldn’t mind trading him, but I’ve always said his value is incredibly low and at this point, he’s probably more valuable to the Yankees as a reliever than he is as a trade piece.

    • Steve (different one)

      Exactly. There is this odd idea that the Yankees somehow “owe it” to Joba to get him into someone’s rotation.

      • A.D.

        I think its more that Joba is most valuable as a starter, if the Yanks don’t believe he’s a starter, then they should trade him to a team that does to get the most value back

        • Steve (different one)

          But nothing is stopping a team from making trade offers commensurate with their view of Joba’s role.

          The Yankees have fielded offers for Joba. Those offers have been low (according to Cashman).

          Unless Joba is seen as a surefire top of the rotation starter (which I doubt he is), teams probably aren’t going to offer THAT much of a premium than if they see him as an excellent reliever.

          Just b/c WAR tells us that a mediocre starter is more valuable than a top reliever, the MLB market hasn’t always followed those rules. Teams keep overpaying for relievers both in trades and in FA deals.

          Just this week, the Jays, who were everyone’s SABR darling 2 days earlier for acquiring a very good, cheap bat for Vernon Wells, traded said bat for another reliever.

          I’m off on a tangent,= I realize, but my point is that I’m not sure it’s as simple as this.

          • The Big City of Dreams

            The offers have been low and rightly so. I mean we’re talking about a middle reliever that the Yankees themselves don’t trust.

    • Ed

      I think you’re dead on.

      The time to trade him was a year ago. They didn’t, so they should make the most of him now.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        In a role that’s a dime a dozen?

        • king of fruitless hypotheticals

          actually i think his math said it was $5MM/1.

          so who do we have that’s just as good BUT CHEAPER in the farm system right now that will never cut it as a starter so we can jettison Joba and arbitrage the farm system even more?

          • The Big City of Dreams

            The fact of the matter is he’d be more valuable in the rotation that in middle relief. The innings he’s getting isn’t impossible to replace. You mean to tell me a guy like Nova couldn’t fill that role especially since he has trouble going through a line-up more than once.

    • David

      He will start for the Yankees on the same day that you depart for Hawaii for a two week trip with Cameron Diaz.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        So you’re saying there’s a chance lol

  • Brazilian Fan


    But i think part deux will be cold shower.

    I don´t know why Cashman is being so adamant to assure Joba is a bullpen guy.

    This is not good long term for the organization. He could have a softer instance (even if it´s not true) about this subject.

    I cheer for Joba to be starter or traded and be suscessfull in another team as a starter.

    • The Big City of Dreams

      “I cheer for Joba to be starter or traded and be suscessfull in another team as a starter.”

      I cheer for that too because I really want to see him get another shot at starting. Until then I’ll support him as a reliever. Hopefully he turns things around because Cashman is backing on him being great again.

  • Steve (different one)

    Good article, but I think the most important data point is what cashman said the other day: teams have reached out and tried to lowball the yanks.

    They are getting offers for Joba that are very low.

    His trade value is low and probably has been for a while.

    • A.D.

      Could be that the value is low, or that teams are just fishing, just as the Yanks seemed to be fishing when they got Swisher

      • Steve (different one)

        Right, but if the ChiSox had said “no, fair value is not Betemit/Marquez/Nunez, it’s really X, Y, and Z” do the Yankees still make the trade?

        My point is that trade value in real life is determined by the prices teams are willing to pay in the market.

        Now, I will cede your point that perhaps Cashman could squeeze slightly more out of a team that was “fishing” in a negotiation, but I don’t think that’s the same as saying the Yanks would get what they feel is fair value.


        • A.D.

          True true, it could be that all other teams value Joba less than the Yanks, or it could just be that the Yanks aren’t particularly inclined to trade Joba and thus need a very good offer to be interested, which is what I was thinking.

  • hatfield

    Why assume that BABIP is a function of luck? It may well be luck, but could he not be generating a high rate of line drives, resulting in a higher BABIP? Just a thought.

    • Tom O

      His 2.98/3.34 FIP and xFIP sort of corroborate that though, they were both well lower than his ERA, which is more evidence that bad likely played a factor for Joba. It’s not concrete proof, but the FIP and BABIP evidence together convinces me at least.

      • Ted Nelson

        I don’t think you’re really addressing hatfield’s point. FIP is not looking at the quality of contact. Joba had the same BABIP in 2008. Hard to say definitively that it’s all luck at this point.

    • JGS

      Because his BABIP was higher despite fewer line drives than 2009.

      2007: 22.4 LD%, .224 BABIP
      2009: 21.3 LD%, .313 BABIP
      2010: 17.2 LD%, .327 BABIP

      I’m not one of the people who thinks BABIP is entirely luck, but there is a lot of it in there. 2007 is also a very small sample size, but that’s the highest LD% of his short career.

      • Ted Nelson

        You sort of conveniently skipped over the 2008 season where he posted a .324 BABIP… That season his LD% was the lowest of his career (14.2) and his GB% was the highest of his career (52%).

        • JGS

          Which is exactly my point. There isn’t much of a correlation between BABIP and LD% with Joba, like their probably should be. My point with posting that was to show that his LD% was better in 2010 than 2009 and his BABIP was worse, then just threw in 2007, when he had a higher LD% and super low BABIP.

          Sorry I didn’t see this until now.

        • Tom O

          Yeah I was going to point out that season, but then for some reason couldn’t access the site. If you look at Joba’s 2010 numbers, there is an interesting correlation between his LD rate and his BABIP over the course of the season – they were both high when he was struggling in the first half, and both average to low when he rebounded in the second half. However, his 2008 season BABIP is nearly the same as his 2010, even with the good LD/GB numbers in 2008. Even though I would bet LD% has some effect on BABIP, luck is definitely a big factor too. That’s why I think the ERA vs FIP is a good correlation: Even though FIP doesn’t directly relate to the issue, looking at it compared to ERA is another simple way to see if a player suffered from bad luck, and both FIP AND BABIP suggest that this was the case for Joba.

  • Coolerking101

    I think we all agree Joba & Laird for Haren wouldn’t happen. So does this mean these sabermetric stats are less trustworthy than many believe or that Victor Wang’s research is off? Something’s got to give, right?

    • Ed

      It means GMs don’t use Fangraphs when making trades.

      bWAR has Joba at 0.4 wins for last season. I think that’s a more realistic value for him than what Fangraphs had. I’m guessing it would match up better with his trade value as well.

    • Ted Nelson

      A. Joba and Laird for Haren isn’t far off from what Haren was literally traded for last season. The Angels got him for a #50-ish prospect who was 18 in A ball, a 20 year old lefty in A ball, and 2 bad major league pitchers.

      B. It could mean that front offices are dumber than we believe just as easily as it could mean that the stats are wrong. If the acquiring team believed Joba could be a successful starter, his value would go up even higher.

      • jsbrendog (returns)

        exhibit a) drayton moore
        exhibit b) omar minaya
        exhibit c) jp ricciardi
        and so on and so forth


    There has yet to be definitive proof that the upside down W always leads to arm issues. ALso he upside down W is associated with ELBOW problems. Not to mention Joba has only a very slight upside down W. He doesn’t have the crazy pronounced instance that you see in other pithchers. As to the falling to a base and whipping across his body?

    Well there have been lots of very successful pitchers who had that in their mechanics as it is deceptive. Think Randy Johnson who managed to have along and productive career without debilitating arm issues.

    Most of the talk about Joba’s mechanics centered on his VERY stiff front side landing. WHich may put pressure on his shoulder but that was much more pronounced in 2007. He has softened up his landing a bit.

    His mechanics are not terrible, there is nothing there that is a guaranteed injury issue. He does have trouble repeating it but a guy with JOba’s lack on innings that isn’t a surprise. IF Joba had been throwing 150 ip a year since 2007 we’d see a much smoother and repeatable delivery.

    The mechanical/injury issues are overblown. It does seem to have SOME correlation to elbow issues but it’s not definitive by any means.


    I’m in the camp that believes if Joba comes back with the stuff he had last september (or even better) as he continues to strentghen the shoulder, and if he begins getting in better shape (it isn’t an issue of not performing because of his weight it’s an issue of demonstrating total commitment) then he will end up starting again at some point. He’s still young enough to make that transition. I can’t even count the number of guys who made that move back.

    One good example of a former TOP prospect who struggled starting, moved to the pen and then moved back is of course Ryan Dempster who made the return at age 31 after 4 years as a reliever.

    And of course there is adam Wainright a high draft pick top prospect who was JOba’s age now when he was converted back to a starter after a full season of bp duty

  • Ty

    Jesus is ranked #4 on Keith Law’s top 100 for all of you that were upset about his ranking (wrong topic I know)


      Is the whole list behind a pay wall or just the commentary. I’d like to see the list

      • Ty

        It’s behind the pay wall…everything Keith Law is today. Not sure what the rules are about how much info you can put on here and I’m sure they will have something up today but Jesus #4 and ManBan #12…Klaw is pretty high on both.

    • jsbrendog (returns)

      if you know that this is the wrong topic then why did you post it? there is an off topic thread for a reason.

  • Ted Nelson

    Good analysis. Interesting stuff. Looking forward to seeing the comparable trades.

    “Some unfortunate luck on the BABIP (.327)…
    You might disagree, but I think it’s fair to say that those strikeout, walk, and homer rates are indicative of Joba’s true talent level, or at least serve as a rough approximation of it.”

    Problem I see is that his BABIP was also .324 in 2008. I have done no work to look into it, but I have a hard time getting on board with the assumption that BABIP is all luck. If people are consistently riping scorching line-drives off you it’s a lot different than even soft line-drives.

    I think he was unlucky (and inconsistent) in 2010 and his ERA will be lower going forward. However, I don’t like just looking at strikeouts basically to determine a pitchers worth. How hard the ball is hit is another aspect of pitching that is totally fielder independent. Where the ball is hit likewise.

    “The problem going forward is that he can only be so valuable as a middle reliever”

    I don’t know how much more than 1.4 WAR he’s getting consistently as a reliever period (so I agree with the overall point), but this stands in stark contrast to the RAB stance on how Soriano should be used. Soriano should not be used exclusively in the 8th, but Joba is less valuable because he is not going to be used exclusively in the 8th or 9th?

    • Ed

      Soriano should not be used exclusively in the 8th, but Joba is less valuable because he is not going to be used exclusively in the 8th or 9th?

      I think the point is that Joba has been moved down the pecking order and will probably be used less. Lower workload = less valuable.

      • Ted Nelson

        But I don’t know if there’s any basis for that assumption. The Yankees have 1 starter who averaged 7 innings per start last season. The others averaged 6 or fewer (even if Pettitte comes back he was at 6.14 and only gave them 21 starts). Say we go with a strict Mo 9th, Soriano 8th rule. There should still be plenty of close games in the 6th and 7th innings (and 8th when Soriano or Mo is unavailable). I haven’t gone any further to actually quantify it than Mike does in the article, but there is a counter logic to the “middle relievers are useless” logic.

  • moose14

    Great job on all the stats,thanks for the heavy lifting. Also enjoying the podcast, keep up the good work. Now that Brian has confirmed Joba is damaged goods, something that was assumed but never confirmed, shouldn’t his trade value be broken down into just the damaged Joba? The healthy Joba per Mr Cashman no longer exists, so those stats should be removed from the equation. I guess we would have to know exactly when he became damaged to pin point where the numbers should start to crunch though. So I’m not sure what Joba is worth

    • The Big City of Dreams

      Maybe Cashman is better equipped to answer what Joba is worth because according to him he’s looking for fair value when it comes to moving Joba.