Joba Chamberlain Voted Most Overrated, Could He Be On the Move?

Friday, July 16, 2010
Posted By Tim Johnson 05:21 PM

Sports Illustrated runs annual "overrated" polls throughout various sports, and we have the results in from this year's MLB version. SI spoke with 187 players and the most overrated player is ... Joba Chamberlain of the New York Yankees.

Really? Joba Chamberlain? The kid who has started in the bullpen, was put into the rotation, and is now back in the bullpen without producing anything of significance? Hmm, not sure I agree with this one here, and not because Chamberlain is having a great year.He's not. Chamberlain has a 5.79 ERA and has given up 42 hits in 37 1/3 innings this season. That's awful for somebody with Chamberlain's stuff and ability. 

But shouldn't "most overrated" go to somebody who is overly hyped and makes a salary disproportional to his performance? I don't hear everyone raving about Joba, and he's making approximately $488,000. Has he been what the Yankees expected him to be? No. But how overrated can you be when you're not making "even" half a million in the big leagues?

For the record, I think "overrated" polls are ridiculous. I just don't like them. But if they are an annual thing, there are better options than Joba for "overrated" in 2010. There's a better one on his own team. How about Mark Teixeira? Teixeira is making $20 million this year and is hitting .254 with an .825 OPS (not bad, but down for his standards).

Is Teixeira really overrated? Well, no, I don't think so. His 17 homers in the first half are good, and 59-50 strikeout-to-walk ratio is great for a power hitter. His .360 OBP is solid and he plays great defense at first base, something that far too many people devalue. But -- in relation to his '10 salary -- couldn't he be a more justified pick than Joba? I digress (see, I told you I hate these things).

But back to Joba real quick. Andrew Marchand of wrote a column wondering if the Yankees may shop Joba at the deadline. 

"Chamberlain's role as the eighth-inning man and, quite possibly, his Yankees future are on the clock," Marchand writes. "The Yankees will not let Chamberlain's inconsistency prevent them from making the playoffs or winning a championship."

Marchand says that GM Brian Cashman is already actively seeking bullpen help before the July 31 trade deadline and that the bullpen is his main priority for this year's club. I'm not disagreeing with Marchand here, but I don't think Chamberlain's clock with the Yankees should be coming close to zero.

Do the Yanks keep putting him out there in the 8th inning with a 1-run lead? Maybe not. But trade him they should not. For a few reasons ...

1) The Yankees can take part of the blame for Chamberlain's struggles. The Yanks drafted him out of Nebraska in 2006 with the idea that he would blossom into a No. 1 starter. That hasn't happened. They've toyed with him, moving him from the bullpen to the rotation and back.

He broke in with the Yankees out of the bullpen and had success. Then the Yanks wanted to transition him into the rotation but limit his innings. Last season, he started in the rotation but was moved into the pen in an attempt to "save his arm." OK... but the problem is that a young pitcher needs to develop a routine and know their role. That's hard to do when you don't know exactly when/where you will be pitching.

Finally this spring the Yankees told Chamberlain that he will be in the bullpen and Phil Hughes will be used as the No. 5 starter. Hughes has excelled in the rotation. Chamberlain hasn't been that dominant guy that he was when the Yanks purchased his contract in August 2007, but this is only his third full season in the big leagues and his first where he knew his role from the outset. He deserves the opportunity to overcome some growing pains.

2) Chamberlain is under contract, for cheap. Joba still has three seasons until he would be eligible for free agency, and his deal is very club-friendly. He will eclipse the half-million mark in salary for the first time in 2011. It's not like the Yanks need to move a hefty contract here.

When you have a guy with Chamberlain's power stuff with three years left on his original contract (sure, Chamberlain will be eligible for arbitration after this season but it's not like he has a strong argument to make for an increase in salary) you don't give up on that. No, he's probably never going to be a starter in the big leagues. That's fine, but he very well could become an impact relief pitcher, a reality the Yankees don't want Chamebrlain to realize in somewhere other than The Bronx.