Yankees trade short-term bullpen quality for long-term depth by keeping Joba over Claiborne

(Nick Laham/Getty)

(Nick Laham/Getty)

Following yesterday’s crucial extra innings win over the Rays, the Yankees confirmed right-hander Preston Claiborne will be send down to clear a roster spot for Derek Jeter. The Cap’n is coming back from his third leg injury of the year and will join the team for their series opener against the Blue Jays in Toronto. New York has been using a three-man bench since Jayson Nix broke his hand last week, so it makes sense to send a reliever down.

On the surface, keeping Joba Chamberlain over Claiborne is a head-scratcher. Claiborne (2.78 ERA/3.17 FIP) has pitched far better and appears to have entered the Circle of Trust™ — he’s entered two of his last three games with a leverage index of 1.45+. Chamberlain (4.46/5.10) has been an untrustworthy mess all season, so much so that he rarely sees even medium-leverage work. Yesterday’s tenth inning appearance (2.15 LI) was the first time he entered a game with an leverage index over 0.35 (!) since late-July and the first time over 1.00 since late-June. Joba has been relegated to mop-up duty, and even then his leash has been short.

In terms of having the best possible bullpen and 25-man roster, sending Claiborne down in favor of Joba is an obviously bad move. The bullpen will be worse off today than it was yesterday once things are made official, I think we can all agree about that. This move isn’t about having the best possible bullpen right now though. It’s about having the best possible bullpen for the remainder of the season. With Claiborne likely to join High-A Tampa, the team will circumvent the ten-day rule since Tampa’s season ends on September 1st. They can bring him back on the 2nd, one week from today. They’re trading short-term bullpen quality for long-term (long-ish term really, the season ends pretty soon) depth.

Unless Michael Pineda, David Phelps, or Vidal Nuno suddenly get healthy, the only pitchers who figure to be called up next month are Dellin Betances and Brett Marshall. I suppose the team could add someone like David Herndon to the 40-man roster, but that would be a surprise. Point is, they don’t have a ton of pitching depth at the moment. At this point, keeping Joba around is preferable to not having him at all. The Yankees aren’t in a position to give away arms, especially ones with a legit mid-90s fastball and occasionally wipeout slider. Joba has stunk of late, but there’s a chance he will contribute in a positive way in the coming weeks. It’s possible. Baseball is weird sometimes.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

“I think it’s been kind of up and down for him. Rib cage muscles can be tough to recover from. I think he has thrown better of late but we need big innings out of this guy … So he is going to have to get it done,” said Girardi to George King when asked about Joba’s role earlier this month. “I think he got into a little bit of a funk and he has been up and down … With rib cage muscles a player comes back and maybe he isn’t where he was before he got hurt but there is no pain.’’

The Yankees will play three super important games against the Orioles next weekend, and not having Claiborne for that series will suck. The good news is that they have Thursday off, a guaranteed day of rest for the bullpen. They’ll head into that series with fresh arms, at least as fresh as can be this time of year. Bullpen depth will hopefully be less of a factor these next three days as the offense does what it’s supposed to do against the second worst pitching staff in baseball. Any team can beat any other team on a given day, but if the Yankees drop two of three to the Blue Jays, someone else will have gone wrong besides keeping Joba over Claiborne.

It would be easy to sit here and rip the team for making the bullpen weaker, especially considering how important every single game is at this point. They’re not all literal must wins, but they’re damn close. I’d be looking at the trees and glossing over the forest if I ripped them though. If the Yankees want to make the postseason — 7.8% chance according to Baseball Prospectus — they need to win a lot of games, not just this week’s. Joba is better than anyone they have stashed in the minors outside of Claiborne and he can help them win games in September. That sounds silly, but so does the notion of this team being a playoff contender. They’re going to need unexpected contributions to pull this thing off and Joba pitching well in September would qualify. He can’t help them if he’s not on the roster.

Categories : Death by Bullpen
  • trr

    Don’t understand the team’s love affair w/Joba.
    Could they really be planning on re-signing him this winter???

    • Wolfgang’s Fault

      They should be. You can’t teach what Joba already knows how to do — throw 95mph. With shoulder exercises & better conditioning & nutrition, that could easily tick up higher. W/better command of what he’s got and better conditioning, he could easily regain the electric stuff he came up with & actually fulfill some of that promise. He should be relatively cheap to resign, & if he’s a bum in ’14, they can easily deal or dump him. They’ve got nothing to lose in resigning him, & a huge reasonably inexpensive upside if he can turn it around by working hard & smart over the winter. Girardi’s been patient with him up to this point. They need to remain patient & give him at least one more shot in ’14.

      • Wolfgang’s Fault

        They should resign Hughes this winter as well.

        • RetroRob

          I actually would want them to look at signing Hughes, although with an eye toward putting him in the pen. With Mo retiring, there is going to be a high-leverage inning available, either the 8th or the 9th, depending on where they slot D-Rob. Hughes has shown he can be quite effective out of the pen. He’s even said he would be open to becoming a reliever, which may say a lot about where his head is at. Maybe he’s even tired of how he’s pitching and would welcome a return of 2009 Phil.

          I just can’t quite see how it happens. He’s young and away from Yankee Stadium could be good, so at the minimum, some team would toss him a 3/30 deal. I don’t the Yankees signing him at that money to be a reliever, and I’m not sure even they want him back as a starter.

    • RetroRob

      Do you mean this year, or his career?

      For his career, it’s easy to understand. He has been a plus pitcher for them, even if he never lived up to expectations. It’s not as if they’ve signed him to a long-term deal.

      If you mean this year, I think Mike just explained why they want to keep him through September.

      After that, he’ll be gone, as I expect some team to sign him, perhaps to give him a shot at starting. If not team wants him to start, then clearly he’s not made out for it.

  • Kramerica Industries

    Does anyone else find it weird how Mike uses Coolstandings for playoffs odds in post-game write-ups, but uses Baseball Prospectus everywhere else?

    • pat

      You could probably just ask…

    • Mike Axisa

      I prefer BP, but they only update once a day. Cool Standings updates live.

  • JLC 776

    Man, poor Joba. It used to be that any utterance of his name resulted in heated battles of ‘Starter’ vs ‘Reliever’ vs ‘The Front Office screwed him up’. Now it’s just sentiments of, ‘why is he still here???’.

    I still cheer like crazy for him, after all he’s a good guy and he gave us some great memories, but it’s hard to see him now as anything but a decent reliever in sharp decline. It’s shocking when he doesn’t leave an appearance in the middle of an inning with a few runners on.

    • JLC 776

      Just look at those 2007/2008 numbers! Remember that 1-0 duel against the Red Sox where Melky made the amazing catch Manny’s near-HR in front of Damon?

      Fucking midges. Fucking Texas.

      • Kramerica Industries

        You are mixing games badly there.

        The 1-0 game was in 2008 at Fenway.

        The Melky HR-robbing catch was in 2006 at Yankee Stadium.

        • MannyGeee

          ‘Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?’

        • JLC 776

          Dammit… you’re right. I was way off there.

      • The Big City of Dreams

        Fucking midges. Fucking Texas


        More like fucking Yankees. Their pitching development has been ehhh to say the least.

    • jsbrendog

      after all he’s a good guy

      while i don’t know him personally there is enough out there to wage a plausible counter argument.

  • Eddard

    It just doesn’t make any sense. When Joe does use Jobber he’ll bring him in for a batter, Jobber lets the batter get on base and then Joe immediately pulls him. Why even have him on the club? DFA Joba, it’s not like anybody is going to pick him up and if they do, good. Another option is to send down Warren. Why have 2 long men who barely pitch?

    • Darren

      Aren’t you the only one that calls him Jobber? That’s an anoying nickname.

      • Ramondo

        THANK YOU!!! That nickname sounds soooooooo RIDICULOUS!!

      • jsbrendog

        the fact that im with eddard on this one scares me but i have been calling him fat jobber for 3 years.

        and he will get picked up for sure by someone if the yanks cut him. eddard is delusional.

        • Darren

          I mean, no offense or anything, but just reading the word “Jobber” grates on me.

          I also get annoyed when Piniella or O’Neill say “dudn’t” instead of “doesn’t” so Myabe I’m just a senstiive lil fuck.

          • jsbrendog

            nah i get the butchering of the english language (you know that google and merriam webster just added the definition “figuratively” to literally? america is doomed) but to me ive hated joba and use the fat jobber cause it works with his name and i think wrestling jobber brought in for a squash match.

            to each his own. or her own, it isn’t the 1920s.

      • Kramerica Industries

        I’ve been using the Jobber name myself since at least the beginning of the 2010 season.

  • Kevin S

    Girardi’s has only used Joba in non-critical situations since mid-June–crazy to start now–if that’s the case then…Why is Joba on the team? Joba has no command of breaking pitches and really has only one effective pitch–the slider–can’t get thru one appearance w/out hanging a curve or leaving his straight fastball in the zone

  • conor in china

    Mike, thanks for pointing out the big picture even after you have criticized sending Claibourne down before.

  • Dexception32

    I hate to weaken us this week, although I can’t help but smile at the return of jeter and chamberlain did look better closing out that last disaster. I think these projected playoff numbers are ridiculous by the way, somehow we dodged a huge bullet with the back and forth nature of all the teams up for wildcard this past weekend and with Tigers hot and likely to beat up on A’s, and Baltimore running into a trending Sox team somewhat sick of hearing they can’t beat them, if we take care of business in Toronto this could be a big swing in momentum in WC drive.

  • Matt DiBari

    No. Just no.

  • JGYank

    Anyone know what happened with Montgomery? Haven’t heard about him.

    • pat

      Shoulder problems. I believe he’s on the DL now.

  • FLYER7

    Agree that they can just as easily send Warren down to Tampa or even DFA Huff rather than lose Claiborne for a week.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

      Sending down Warren would make the most sense IMO.
      They wouldn’t lose any depth in the process, and Claiborne is likely to be much more useful than having an extra long man for the next week.

      • YankeeJosh

        Agree completely. If you want to keep pitching depth for September send Warren down. Huff can be your long man and Joba is still available for mop up duty. Sending down Claiborne right now makes no sense given that he actually has an important role.

  • Steve

    I do find it funny that Mike called this move “preposterous” just last night!!! And then write a post today showing why there is some rationale behind it. I know Mike writes on emotion most days now, but he also wrote about the preposterous move last time they sent him down. So yes Mike – you did rip them on two occasions and then you wrote this post without a mention that you ripped them on two prior occasions. Maybe Matt actually wrote this post?

    • Mike Axisa

      Oh I was planning a full post tearing them apart on the move, but I slept on it.

      • Steve

        Well that is certainly reasonable – thanks for the response.

      • jim p

        I’m pretty sure, at least in NY State law, sports-bloggers aren’t permitted to reflect on any notion. Careful, might lose your license.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          He’ll never be able to run for public office now.

  • Robert

    Very Simple explanation,he is out of options so if we release him then Balt or Boston will pick him up and he will strike out the side when he faces us in the Home stretch.

    Better to just let him go the free agent route after the season!!!

  • Matt DiBari

    Since when is “maybe he won’t suck” a valid reason to keep someone on the team?

    • Mike Axisa

      When the alternatives definitely suck.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Thanks, Matt…..err, Mike. I agree with Steve above that this is rather whiplash of you, but human beings are certainly allowed to develop more nuanced opinions over time.

    And, yes, this is exactly the rationale for the move.

    The only question I’d have is why Claiborne instead of Warren. I then answer it by saying I wouldn’t be afraid for the team if Warren suddenly got some 6th/7th inning work with a lead this next week, making it a somewhat moot point.

    I guess this sucks if you bought the Joba t-shirt and want your money back.

    • jsbrendog

      i laugh at everyone who has a joba rules shirt. what a stupid shirt.

    • JLC 776

      I never got anything back for my ‘Melkman Delivers’ shirt, so I wouldn’t hold your breath if you have anything with the word ‘Rules’ on it.

      My ‘What the hell is ‘ANSKY” shirt and ‘We play today, we win today’ have both appreciated in value. So, maybe there’s hope.

      • Darren

        I’m gonna have to dust off my “Aldrete is Ready” t-shirt.

  • mt

    This move does make sense if you look at long-term versus short-term but then I see limited use of Warren and Huff and scratch my head. Given recent heavy use of Mo and Robertson since the Toronto doubleheader, wouldn’t we rather have Claiborne rather than Warren or Huff?

    To me, you also cannot look at the keeping Joba decsion without considering the investment the Yankees have made in Joba since 2006 and all the press that will be attached to what he supposedly represents – a failure of the Yankees’ farm system in translating someone with promise to a competent contributing major leaguer – Yanks must figure if they have gotten this far with Joba why cut him now (DFAing Joba will be treated as a big deal and an example of failure by the Yankees) I am not saying this “attention” factor should be considered but I do think it is a factor.

    However, Warren and/or Huff do not have the same attention/meaning as Joba – why is Claiborne going down so that both of them can stay this week?

  • FLYER7

    Maybe the Yankees think they need a long man behind Hughsie but two long men…if Warren or Huff was needed tonight, they could bring someone in tomorrow…option Warren and keep Claiborne and Huff is the obvious move…

    btw when is Romine getting some steady run like 3 of 5 or 2 of 3 starts instead of Stewie…reality is when the 40 man is set this winter Cervelli and Stewie will not be on it but Romine will…

    • Wolfgang’s Fault

      Romine, Murphy, & Sanchez will be on it.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting (but mostly hitting)

      I have a feeling both Cervelli and Stewie will be back next year.
      Unless they decide to trade Cervelli.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        I agree with the thought that Cervelli exits stage left after the season.

  • FLYER7

    Do Murphy and Sanchez have to go on the 40 man this winter? Murphy, maybe….Sanchez?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I haven’t heard anything as to Gary being Rule 5 eligible this year. Highly doubt it.