Joba Chamberlain Represents Internal Upgrade For New York Yankees’ Starting Rotation
This will hardly be venturing into new waters, but it is time for me put my two cents into this brewing discussion/debate. Joba Chamberlain: The Starter vs. The Reliever has been the most polarizing issue that I’ve encountered as a New York Yankees fan. I was firmly entrenched in the camp that wanted Joba Chamberlain in the rotation. I know he sucked most of 2009, but he was still an inexperienced starting pitcher and had shown in 2008 that he had the ability to dominate opposing lineups. Even though the New York Yankees might have made up their mind in terms of Joba Chamberlain’s role with the team, there are at least two good reasons for them to consider moving him out of the bullpen and back into the starting rotation.
The primary reason is that Chamberlain is a better option than several of the pitchers lining the depth chart. To be 100% honest, I think Chamberlain would outproduce Ivan Nova if given an equal opportunity. Chamberlain was always more highly regarded as a prospect and I’m not ready to concede that he wouldn’t be a solid starting pitcher. If Chamberlain is/would be capable of outperforming Nova in the rotation, it pretty much goes without saying that he would be a more attractive option than Freddy Garcia, Hector Noesi, David Phelps, Adam Warren and D.J. Mitchell – in terms of ceiling and upside at the very least.
Secondly, upon his return from Tommy John surgery, Chamberlain is penciled into a crowded bullpen. For 2012, the Yanks already have Mariano Rivera, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano holding down the back end of the ‘pen. In addition, the Yanks have Boone Logan and maybe even a second lefty if Brian Cashman signs another one. What is the team going to do, slot Joba into the 6th inning? Even beyond the potentially untouchable back three and one or two lefty options, at least one or two of the aforementioned names (Noesi, Phelps, Warren, Mitchell) are probably best suited for the bullpen. There certainly isn’t room for all of them in the rotation – especially with top prospects Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances en route to a permanent spot in the big leagues by sometime in 2013.
Those are the two main reasons – a weak starting rotation on paper and a crowded bullpen – but there are some others to consider. A starting pitcher is almost always going to be more valuable than a middle reliever. There is never a problem with increasing a player’s value. Increased value can improve a player’s trade stock or simply give the team more bang for their buck. You can also consider the fact that Chamberlain is coming off of TJ surgery. This would at least seem like a perfect opportunity to “rebuild” Chamberlain as a starting pitcher since he’s starting from square one in a lot of ways.
I know I’m setting myself up for disappointment here, but I find it hard to accept that the New York Yankees are not better off with Joba Chamberlain making a return to the starting rotation. Go ahead and put your seatbelt on. The “great debate” is just getting restarted.