Upon his arrival late in the 2007 season, Joba Chamberlain had a fairly quick impact on the New York Yankees. He was so dominant against opposing hitters over the season’s final two months that a debate promptly began over his future role with the team – should he start or should he close (once Mariano Rivera retires, of course)? The team’s gone back-and-forth and Chamberlain’s failed to stay healthy over the past few seasons, but most of his time on the mound has ended up coming out of the pen. Chamberlain will be a free agent at season’s end and mentioned to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News that he’d like a chance to start again.
This is probably going to spark a bunch of stuff and (Yankees PR Director Jason) Zillo is going to be mad at me, but it’s one of those things where it’s like, do you think you have the capability to start? Yes. Do I have four pitches that I can throw for a strike? Yes. Do I have two plus pitches in the bullpen that I can throw at any time? Yes.
I guess I’m trying to have my cake and eat it, too. I like I’m good enough to do both. I’ve proven that I can do both. Whatever it is, if I close, I want to be one or the other. I’ve been in the role of in the bullpen for a while, but am I confident that if I got the chance to start again somewhere – wherever that’s at – I could do it? Without a doubt. I just have to focus on this year and what I can do to improve to help this team win, continue to try to win ballgames for them.
Chamberlain already appears to be on his way out in New York following the season. He’s been a solid piece of the pitching staff when healthy, but he’s largely failed to live up to the high expectations that his arrival came with. The injury history is concerning and his undefined role mean that Chamberlain won’t be a priority next offseason. He’ll be viewed as a middle reliever and the organization will want to pay him as such. Chamberlain may feel he’s worth more.
New York will also be faced with numerous decisions next offseason, as Chamberlain will not be their only homegrown pitcher to reach free agency. Phil Hughes will also be available and appears much more likely to be re-signed by the team, though that is no certainty either.
It’s far too early to start speculating on potential landing spots for Chamberlain as there are too many things that could take place this season first. He’ll need to stay healthy, first and foremost, but a strong season on the mound will serve him well heading into free agency for the first time.