Bullpen exodus: Joba to Tigers, Logan to Rockies

The Yankees have lost two relievers to free agency over the last 24 hours or so. First, Buster Olney reported Joba Chamberlain has agreed to a one-year contract worth $2.5M with the Tigers. He’ll join their revamped setup crew. Joba was awful in 2013 (4.93 ERA and 5.64 FIP in 42 innings) and finished his Yankees career with a 3.85 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 444.2 innings. There were no indications the team was interested in a reunion, understandably.

Next, Jon Heyman reported Boone Logan has agreed to a three-year, $16.5M deal with the Rockies. Nice payday for him. Logan had a 3.23 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 39 innings this past and Clayton Kershaw was the only left-handed pitcher in baseball with a higher strikeout rate against left-handed batters. He finishes his Yankees career with a 3.38 ERA (3.63 FIP) in parts of four seasons. Boone caught a lot of undeserved crap over the years (I’m certainly guilty) but chances are the team will miss him next season (they did talk about re-signing him). Pretty crazy that he ended up being the best player to come out of that trade.

Between these two guys plus Mariano Rivera, the Yankees have now lost three relievers who combined for a 3.22 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 145 innings this past season. The bullpen is pretty sketchy behind David Robertson right now. The team needs to work on that these next two months.

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Murti: Yankees not discussing re-signing Joba

Via Sweeny Murti: The Yankees have not discussed re-signing Joba Chamberlain. A dozen unnamed teams have already spoken to him and his agent since free agency officially opened on Tuesday. It’s not surprising New York is not considering bringing him back — the writing has been on the wall for months now.

Joba, 28, had a 4.93 ERA (5.64 FIP) in 42 innings this season and was especially dreadful in the second half (6.53 FIP). I’m sure plenty of teams are looking at him as a change of scenery guy and heck, if he’d spent the last six years pitching for some other team, chances are we’d be considering him as a buy-low candidate for a team in need of bullpen depth. I can’t be the only one thinking Chamberlain will wind up posting a 2.00-ish ERA with the Rays next season, right?

147 players, 13 Yankees officially become free agents

As I mentioned this morning, eligible players officially became free agents at 9am ET this morning. They still have to wait five days to sign with new teams, however. The MLBPA released a list of all 147 free agents this afternoon, which you can check out right here. Among those 147 players are 13 Yankees: Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain, Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Lyle Overbay, Andy Pettitte, Mark Reynolds, Mariano Rivera, Brendan Ryan, and Kevin Youkilis.

There are currently 28 players on the 40-man roster, though Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Jayson Nix, Francisco Cervelli, and CC Sabathia all have to be activated off the 60-day DL by Monday. So, in reality, there are 34 players on the 40-man.

What Went Wrong: Joba Chamberlain

The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with the poster boy for the Yankees’ recent player development failures.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Man, these last six years and two months did not go according to plan for the Yankees and Joba Chamberlain. Not at all. He was supposed to be the future of the pitching staff, the hard-throwing strikeout machine who chewed up innings and was the New York version of Michael Wacha or Jose Fernandez or whoever is the young pitcher flavor of the week. Things didn’t go according to plan — not even remotely close, really — and Joba’s final season in pinstripes was a nightmare.

After returning from Tommy John surgery in the second half last year, Chamberlain struggled for a few weeks but closed out the season very well, creating some optimism that he would get back to his pre-elbow reconstruction form the further he got away from surgery. He opened 2013 in the seventh inning setup role behind Mariano Rivera and David Robertson but ahead of Shawn Kelley on the reliever depth chart. The Red Sox pounded Joba to three runs in two-thirds of an inning on Opening Day, but he followed by allowing just one run in his final 8.2 innings and nine appearances of the month.

Joba’s season was put on hold on April 27th, when he suffered a right oblique strain in the team’s 23rd game of the season. He apparently suffered the injury while filling in at closer during a game in which Robertson and Rivera were unavailable:

It was a cardiac save, no doubt about it. The oblique injury sidelined him for a month.

By the time Chamberlain returned from the DL, Kelley had begun to establish himself as the team’s go-to seventh inning reliever. Joba got his old job back but in his second appearance following the injury, he turned a 4-0 lead into a 4-3 lead in the span of two-thirds of an inning against the Indians. A three-run homer by Drew Stubbs did the trick. Boone Logan came in to finish the frame and Joe Girardi relegated Joba to lower leverage work for the time being.

In twelve appearances and eleven innings between the meltdown against the Tribe and the All-Star break — only two of those 12 appearances came with the Yankees leading, both times by seven (!) runs — Chamberlain allowed seven runs on 16 hits (three homers) and five walks. That’s a 5.73 ERA and 5.78 FIP. Opponents hit .333/.407/.542 against him during that time, pretty close to what Mike Trout hit this summer (.323/.432/.557). Joba turned everyone he faced into the best player in the world during a five-week stretch this season. Geez.

That game against the Indians was the last time Girardi used Chamberlain in a truly important situation. He made 20 appearances in the second half and only six times was the game separated by fewer than three runs. Two of those six were extra-inning games, last arm in the bullpen stuff. Only four of those 20 appearances came in games the Yankees were leading — twice by seven runs, once by four runs, and once by three runs. The three-run lead came in Game 160, after the Bombers had been eliminated from postseason contention.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Following the All-Star break, Joba’s average Leverage Index when entering the game was 0.57. That ranked 220th out of 245 relievers to throw at least ten innings in the second half. Girardi didn’t trust him and rightfully so, but for whatever reason, he used Chamberlain in what was then the team’s most important game of the season, on September 19th against the Blue Jays. The Yankees were three games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column and were down two runs in the seventh inning against Toronto. Joba faced three batters and allowed a walk, a single, and a three-run homer. Just like that, the two-run deficit in a hugely important game became a five-run deficit.

That disaster against the Blue Jays wound up being Joba’s second to last appearance with the team. He finished the season with a 4.93 ERA (5.64 FIP) in 42 innings, and he also left an extra bad taste in everyone’s mouth when he told Rivera not to “shush” him while talking to his family during a road trip to Kansas City in May. Joba reportedly apologized and Mo played it off as no big deal, but still. It was not exactly appropriate.

Chamberlain will leave the Yankees via free agency this winter with a 3.85 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 444.2 career innings. I don’t think they’ll bring him back under any circumstances, not even on a minor league contract. At this point, I think it’s clear Joba’s failure to fulfill his so obviously enormous potential has more to do with him not putting in the necessary work — showing up to Spring Training overweight on more than one occasion is evidence of that — than the team jerking him around, but they didn’t exactly help matters either. Both share some of the blame, but after six years, the last four in the same role, most of it falls on the player. Joba will be some other team’s problem now. The disastrous 2013 season was a fitting end to a disappointing tenure in New York.

Joba asked for Tommy John surgery after doc said it was unnecessary

Via George King: Joba Chamberlain asked for Tommy John surgery two years ago even though Dr. James Andrews said the procedure was not necessary. “I could turn a doorknob and rub my head and people said I couldn’t do that [with a torn ligament]. [Andrews] said he didn’t operate on healthy arms … For me it was a matter of getting it done and knowing it was fixed,” he said.

Chamberlain, 27, was originally diagnosed with a strained flexor tendon and then a torn medial ligament, which is different that the ulnar collateral ligament repaired by Tommy John surgery. He said he played long-toss and felt soreness after being told he didn’t need his elbow reconstructed, which is when he decided to go ahead with the procedure. Usually guys try to avoid surgery at all costs — most notably Matt Harvey right now — but I guess Joba felt it was inevitable and wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible.

In 62.1 innings since returning from surgery last August, Joba has a 4.33 ERA and 4.81 FIP. He had a 3.95 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 100.1 innings from 2010-2011 after moving back into the bullpen and before having his elbow rebuilt.