Make no mistake, by not even considering Joba Chamberlain for a role in the rotation the Yankees are wasting his talent. After years of going back and forth between deciding if he has starter future closer potential they relegated him to the role of middle reliever and even signed a closer to a contract that isn’t team friendly to avoid using him in an important bullpen role.
At this point they could be better off just trading him, but with the way they’ve handled him and the almost zero confidence they have shown in him, Joba is left with almost no trade value on top of everything. So how do they salvage him?
They may be on their way toward doing that. Joba seems to have become part of a formula that includes their starters going six innings and then using him, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera to shutdown the games. The best thing to hope for is that they will keep him in that role and use him in it as often as possible. If he can have a good season there and builds up confidence he would be poised to step up and be the setup man next season and hopefully that can turn into him taking over for Mariano whenever he is ready to retire.
The problem is that the path for this route isn’t exactly clear. A lot of it depends on the opportunity available. If Joba pitches lights out all season long there still may be Soriano there to block him. He is on a three-year deal that he will only opt-out of if he has a tremendous season and feels like he can make more money elsewhere. There is the issue that even if he has a good season, he may not make more money elsewhere as he could again be a Type-A free agent and the $25 million he is owed in the final two years of his deal aren’t guaranteed to be topped.
So the best thing Yankees and Joba fans can hope for is that Joba pitches well enough to deserve a spot as the setup man next season and Soriano pitches well enough that somebody offers him more than the two-years and $25 million it would take to get him to leave. A poor season from either one and Joba could still be stuck in Yankee purgatory. In that way, these two pitchers’ seasons are tied together.
That or the Yankees could realize that they gave up too soon on a young starter with potential. I’m not holding my breath on that one though.