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Joba Chamberlain Rumors
With Burke Badenhop off the market on a one-year deal with the Reds, few arms on the free agent market figure to land big league deals. Many of the remaining names are coming off poor seasons or injuries and will therefore end up signing minor league deals. While Francisco Rodriguez and Rafael Soriano will garner much of the attention and the chatter, in my eyes, Joba Chamberlain could be the best remaining option on the open market.
Entering just his age-29 season, Chamberlain was one of the youngest free agents available even at the beginning of the offseason, and he’s the youngest notable name on the relief market as a whole at this point. Not only that, but Chamberlain is coming off a quietly strong season in his lone year with the Tigers.
In 63 innings, Chamberlain posted a 3.57 ERA with 8.4 K/9, 3.4 BB/9 and a 53.2 percent ground-ball rate. He wilted down the stretch, yielding a 4.97 ERA following the All-Star break, but much of that is attributable to a nearly seven percent dip in his strand rate. Chamberlain stranded runners at a 75.7 percent clip in the first half — which compares favorably to his career mark of 74.6 percent — but that number dropped to 69.1 percent. Should that mark trend back toward Chamberlain’s career level with all else remaining more or less equal, Chamberlain could turn in some excellent results in 2015.
Also worth considering is that the Tigers ranked 28th among 30 Major League teams in both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating, and they ranked 29th of 30 in in defensive efficiency. By virtually any defensive metric imaginable, Chamberlain was pitching with one of baseball’s least talented groups supporting him — a likely reason for the discrepancy between his 3.57 ERA and his stronger marks in FIP (3.16), xFIP (3.35) and SIERA (3.13).
Chamberlain did lose a bit of life on his fastball, dipping from an average of 94.7 mph to 93.5 mph, but that mark still rates as above average, and he offset the slight drop in velocity by throwing more curveballs — a pitch that graded out as his best, according to Fangraphs’ pitch values.
Some may point to his shaky 2013 season as a reason to shy away from the former top prospect, but it should be remembered that Chamberlain battled an oblique strain that year as he attempted to complete his first full season following Tommy John surgery. Control was his main problem in 2013 (5.6 BB/9), but he’s never battled that issue much in any other season spent pitching in relief.
Last offseason, Chamberlain signed a one-year, $3MM contract with the Tigers in mid-December. He’s undoubtedly coming off a better season this time around, but Chamberlain has reportedly been selective about his destination, rejecting offers from a few teams for which he did not want to play, leaving him afloat on the open market as one of the last remaining candidates for a big league deal. If another one-year deal is in the offing, or even a two-year pact at a reasonable price, Chamberlain could be a significant boost to a contender’s bullpen at a cost that hardly seems prohibitive.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski addressed reporters yesterday and touched on a number of Hot Stove related topics. Via James Schmehl of MLive.com (All Twitter links), Dombrowski again stated that he’s happy with his current group of starters and rejected the idea of a serious pursuit of James Shields. Dombrowski did say he’s open to adding another arm, but it would come in the form of a non-roster invite, if it happens at all. As for free agents Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain, both of whom posted sub-4.00 ERAs out of the Detroit bullpen last year, there’s been no serious discussions with either of them, and neither is likely to return to the team in 2015.
Here are a few more notes out of the much-improved AL Central as Spring Traning nears…
- The Tigers will be among the teams in attendance to watch righty Matt Albers throw next week, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press tweets. Shoulder problems limited the big righty to 10 innings of work in 2014, but he’s been quite effective dating back to 2012, posting a combined 2.63 ERA in 133 1/3 frames. Albers averaged 5.9 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in that time, registering an exceptional 59.4 percent ground-ball rate as well.
- The Indians have a standing offer to Jason Giambi to work for the team in a non-playing capacity, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweeted earlier this week. It’s unclear exactly what role Giambi would fill, but he’s beloved in the Cleveland clubhouse and organization after playing there the past two seasons, so it’s likely that the players would be receptive to such an idea. Giambi, 44, has batted a combined .171/.246/.346 with 11 homers in 286 plate appearances for Cleveland since signing there prior to the 2013 campaign.
- Tony Gwynn Jr.’s representatives at John Boggs and Associates are trying to sell the Twins on his defensive prowess in center field, but the team isn’t biting at this time, tweets 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson. Minnesota’s outfield defense does figure to be a problem in 2015, but they’ll go with a mix of Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks, Torii Hunter and Jordan Schafer to open the year. I’d imagine Gwynn could be stashed at Triple-A, making him a reasonable add, although Byron Buxton figures to occupy center field at Triple-A sometime in 2015 as well, so the Twins may simply prefer not to bring in an outside veteran. It’s been a quiet offseason for Gwynn, though this is the second time this month we’ve heard some rumblings about the 32-year-old defensive standout.
Recent Brewers signee Neal Cotts tells Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he came close to hanging up his spikes before the Rangers offered him a deal for the 2013 season. After two fairly productive seasons in Texas, Cotts chose Milwaukee in part due to proximity to his home in Chicago.
Here are some notes on still-active bullpen situations around the game:
- The Red Sox have indicated a willingness over the last few days to deal righty Edward Mujica, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. Mujica, 30, signed a two-year deal to head to Boston last year after a strong 2013 with the Cardinals, but struggled mightily out of the gate. He rebounded with a big second half, however, throwing 25 1/3 innings of 1.78 ERA ball over the second half. All said, Mujica ended the year having allowed 3.90 earned per nine and having compiled a 3.70 FIP that was nearly identical to his fielding-independent mark from the season prior.
- After adding Cotts, the Brewers will keep looking for a veteran, late-inning arm, potentially one with closing experience, assistant GM Gord Ash tells Haudricourt. The club is “juggling a lot of balls right now,” says Ash, who added that talks with the Phillies on Jonathan Papelbon are not dead even if nothing is imminent. Ash also indicated that the team was considering former closer Francisco Rodriguez, but noted that the club is not in on Rafael Soriano or Joba Chamberlain. Milwaukee also seems to have its eye out for a bargain, with Ash noting that the club is open to doing a minor league deal at any time.
- A few of the other names still on the market do have some interest even though they have yet to ink a contract, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). After a solid 2014, southpaw Joe Beimel has interest from three clubs, including the incumbent Mariners, while fellow lefty Joe Thatcher has drawn attention from a handful of teams.
Rather than throwing touchdowns for the Patriots, could Tom Brady have instead had a career throwing out baserunners for the Expos? MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro looks back at how Montreal selected Brady (then a catcher at Serra High School) in the 18th round of the 1995 draft, even though it was widely known that Brady was going to play football at Michigan. “I think he would have been a pro,” said scout John Hughes, who evaluated Brady for the Expos. “He had all the intangibles. He could throw, left-handed power. There is no reason to think this guy couldn’t have been a big league catcher.” While every New England sports fan breathes a sigh of relief that Brady stuck to the gridiron, here are some more notes from around baseball…
- Joba Chamberlain has rejected multiple offers because he simply didn’t want to pitch for the teams that offered him those deals, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reports. He’s considering a one-year deal with a modest base salary and incentives, as his hopes for a two-year contract have likely gone by the wayside. There is still some question about Chamberlain’s makeup amongst league executives, and one exec told Rosenthal that the Tigers‘ lack of interest in re-signing Chamberlain “alarmed him” given Detroit’s need for bullpen help.
- Though Brandon Beachy was reportedly considering multiple offers and was thought to be close to signing a new contract earlier this month, his agent Rob Martin tells Ken Rosenthal (all Twitter links) that the right-hander will wait a bit longer. “Brandon has decided not to sign a contract at this time. With each day his arm is getting stronger and he’s feeling even more confident about his progress,” Martin said. “Thus, he is going to continue with his throwing program and make a decision closer to Spring Training.”
- The Marlins were linked to Wade Miley earlier this winter, and now ESPN’s Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) reports that the Marlins thought they were in agreement with the Diamondbacks on a Miley-for-Nathan Eovaldi trade. Arizona pulled out of the deal, however, and Miami instead dealt Eovaldi to the Yankees while the D’Backs sent Miley to the Red Sox.
- Also from Olney, there is some speculation in rival front offices that the Nationals‘ trade of Tyler Clippard might’ve been motivated by more than just a desire to move salary, especially since Washington just signed Casey Janssen to a healthy contract. It’s possible the Nats could see “red flags” about Clippard’s future production that aren’t obvious to most observers, especially given that Clippard had another strong season in 2014.
Rebuilding is no longer a word the White Sox want to be associated with, Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune reports. “We sit here on the one hand realizing that we have the prime of Chris Sale‘s career ahead of us, the prime of Jose Abreu‘s career ahead of us and wanting to make sure we’re in a position to capitalize and win within that window,” Hahn said. “We want to win, we want to win again quickly and we want to win again repeatedly in the coming years. … We still have work to do to continue that process.” At the same time, Hahn emphasized today that the team has to avoid the “dangerous allure to wanting to make a splash,” as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reports in the course of an interesting look at the team’s options.
Here’s the latest from the AL Central after a busy news day:
- The White Sox are currently focused on acquiring a right-handed starter, bullpen additions, and a left-handed hitter, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports on Twitter. While the club has in the past looked into dealing for backstops such as Jason Castro of the Astros and Yasmani Grandal of the Padres, that does not appear to be the priority at present, per Rosenthal. Nevertheless, Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com indicates on Twitter that the team does have present interest in Castro.
- Hahn said today that Chicago is interested in multiple relief acquisitions, as MLB.com’s Phil Rogers reports. “We don’t feel the need to go out and get a so-called proven closer,” said Hahn. “We certainly want to have multiple upgrades, and if some of those upgrades give us viable back-end options, that’s great.”
- Word is that the Royals will meet with the representatives of lefty Brett Anderson this week, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter. GM Dayton Moore declined to confirm or deny that or any other meetings. I picked Anderson to go to Kansas City in the MLBTR free agent prediction contest, and think he makes sense for a club that has some added cash to spend on an upside play.
- The Royals have told Raul Ibanez that they would be interested in employing him in a non-playing capacity, tweets McCullough. Ibanez, of course, is in the hunt for the Rays’ open managerial position, and perhaps it is still to early to rule out a return to an active roster as well.
- Victor Martinez is at the top of the Tigers‘ list of priorities, writes Paul Hagen of MLB.com, as GM Dave Dombrowski made clear that the team will make every effort to re-sign the DH. The team is still interested in outgoing free agents Max Scherzer and Joba Chamberlain, per Dombrowski, but he said the club is sitting back while both assess their markets.
To the surprise of no one, star free agents Max Scherzer and Victor Martinez turned down qualifying offers from the Tigers yesterday. Re-signing Martinez seems to be a priority for GM Dave Dombrowski. More on the Tigers…
- The door is not closed on a new deal with free agent reliever Joba Chamberlain, says Dombrowski, but it’s not a priority right now.
- Dombrowski said he has not talked about an extension with lefty David Price, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Dombrowski said he knows both sides will want to see free agent prices first. That’s a reference to the current free agent class, says Rosenthal. Price is eligible for free agency after the 2015 season.
- Dombrowski has four prominent starting pitchers under control for 2015 in Price, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, and Anibal Sanchez. According to Rosenthal, the GM says he is happy with his starters and not looking to move anyone, but will always listen as he has in the past.
- The Tigers announced they have named former big leaguer David Newhan assistant hitting coach to Wally Joyner, replacing the departed Darnell Coles.
It would make sense for the Rangers to sign free agent Kendrys Morales, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. With injuries to Prince Fielder and Matt Harrison, the Rangers should be able to recoup enough from their insurance policies that they have money to sign Morales. Also, Grant argues that Morales could end up being worth more to the Rangers than the No. 30 overall draft pick they would lose if they signed him prior to the draft. Even if the Rangers’ season fell apart, they could trade Morales later. And by signing Morales now, the Rangers would avoid having to bid against others once the draft passed. Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Rangers’ injuries may have already turned their season into “a lost cause,” Jeff Sullivan writes for Fangraphs’ series at FOX Sports. While it’s easy to overstate the impact of one injury, the Rangers have had so many injuries to so many important players that the impact is clearly significant. Signing Morales would seem to make sense for the Rangers, but they could decide that the injuries have already hurt so much that signing him isn’t worth it right now, particularly given the draft-pick issue.
- The Tigers will likely try to re-sign Victor Martinez this offseason, and they also could try to re-sign Joba Chamberlain if he continues to contribute, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes. Max Scherzer, of course, is a top free agent and is likely to sign elsewhere.
- It’s too early in the season for GM Ben Cherington to be able to use the trade market to effectively upgrade a Red Sox squad that has lost ten straight games, Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald writes. Nonetheless, Cherington says, “At some point if production is not there, you have to think about changes.” He continues, “We have to find ways to improve across the board. Some of that is going to happen just naturally with the guys we have here.”
On this date in 1980, the Yankees made Dave Winfield the highest-paid athlete in all of sports with a ten-year, $16MM contract. In the intervening four decades, a ten-year MLB contract is now worth something in the neighborhood of $240MM (Robinson Cano and Albert Pujols) to $275MM (Alex Rodriguez). Meanwhile, $16MM will only buy you one year of Hiroki Kuroda or two years of Marlon Byrd this offseason, per MLBTR's Transaction Tracker. As you rush out and buy your child a bat, a glove, and every baseball instructional video ever made, here's today's American League news and notes:
- The Rays feel justified in giving James Loney the most lucrative free agent contract during Andrew Friedman's tenure, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The Rays value Loney's defense, quality at-bats, clubhouse presence, and his left-handed bat which balances a predominantly right-handed lineup.
- Also from Topkin's article, the Rays will now turn their attention to adding bench and bullpen pieces with catcher Jose Lobaton and outfielder Matt Joyce as possible trade chips.
- The market for Matt Garza is strong because of his 2013 season, AL East pedigree, and not being attached to draft pick compensation, tweets CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman.
- The Angels believe they can sign both Garza and Raul Ibanez and still fall below the $189MM luxury tax threshold, writes FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal notes the Angels' interest in Ibanez stems from his career slash line of .349/.407/.522 in 327 plate appearances at Angel Stadium.
- Also from Rosenthal, the Astros are still in the market for a first baseman and could turn to the Nationals' Tyler Moore.
- Despite the signing of Joba Chamberlain, the Tigers' preference is to have Bruce Rondon set up closer Joe Nathan, according to John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Royals are to be commended not just for signing Omar Infante away from the Yankees, but also strengthening their ballclub immediately at a reasonable cost, opines Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan.
General manager Dave Dombrowski has a new-look bullpen heading into the 2014 season, with Joe Nathan serving as the closer, Ian Krol in place of Drew Smyly (who will move to the rotation in place of the recently traded Doug Fister) and newcomer Joba Chamberlain joining on a one-year, $2.5MM deal.
Despite the fact that Chamberlain's $2.5MM guarantee is less than the $4MM option Detroit declined on Jose Veras and the fact that the team saved money in the Fister and Prince Fielder trades, Dombrowski maintains that his moves haven't been about cutting payroll. When asked about the perception that his team is slashing payroll on today's conference call, he replied:
"The reality is it's not true. We have a very hefty payroll. We'll be one of the highest payrolls in Major League Baseball. We'll continue to be that, and our payroll, actually, as of this year is higher than it was last year."
Asked then if the decision came down to the fact that the Tigers simply like Chamberlain better than Veras, Dombrowski was frank:
"Yes we do, and no offense to Jose Veras because he's a solid guy and we liked him. We had an opportunity to bring him back. We like Joba. … We had our choice of a lot of guys who are still out there for one-year deals — maybe even a two-year deal in a couple different cases. I'm not talking about closer guys. We like Joba. We've liked him in the past. Our scouts that haved liked him. We realized that sometimes coming off Tommy John, it takes awhile to come back. … The ability is still there. The velocity is still there. … We like what he brings to our bullpen, so the answer to that is yes."
Though it's a new-look bullpen for Detroit, some familiar faces will be returning for Tigers fans, and one of those faces is familiar to Chamberlain as well. I asked Dombrowski and Chamberlain if either talked with left-hander Phil Coke — Chamberlains' former teammate with the Yankees — before making the decision. Dombrowski said that while he didn't ask Coke what Chamberlain is like in the clubhouse, the club did a lot of research and spoke with a lot of people about Chamberlain before making the offer. Asked about his former teammate, Chamberlain replied:
"I didn't have the chance to talk to Phil, but every time that Detroit came to New York or I was in Detroit, we'd always talk to Phil. … Phil is a great man. He's a character, and we had some good times in New York, and I'm looking forward to being back with him and sharing some new memories in Detroit, and definitely getting some more stories from Phil. He's a guy that'll keep you entertained. … I'm looking forward to seeing him, giving him a big hug and being his teammate again."
Though he had other offers, Chamberlain called Detroit "an incredible fit," and a "fantastic organization from top to bottom." He added that he was excited to come to Detroit after talking with new manager Brad Ausmus, whom he watched as a player for a number of years.
"There was a lot of interest," said agent Jim Murray of Excel Sports Management. "There were a lot of opportunities out there for potentially even more dollars. However, the money wasn't a driving factor in this. This is more about opportunity. This is more about Joba feeling comfortable."
Detroit designated Danny Worth for assignment in order to clear a 40-man roster spot — a move that Dombrowski acknowledged was influenced by the addition of Steve Lombardozzi in the Doug Fister trade. Though they've been busy to this point, it could be a low-key offseason the rest of the way for Detroit.
"No, we're pretty well set at this point," Dombrowski said when asked if he'd continue shopping for more pieces. "I think this basically sets us up as we want to go forward. Now, there are a lot of players out there. Who knows what happens as the winter progresses? Who knows what the next phone call brings since we're still a couple months away from Spring Training? But as far as us being aggressive and trying to sign somebody and bring them on board, this would be the last move we're looking to make."
11:56am: Chamberlain's deal includes $500K in performance bonuses based on games pitched that would bring his salary up to $3MM, tweets Jason Beck of MLB.com.
10:35am: Having already added Joe Nathan to solidify the ninth inning, the Tigers made an upside play by adding right-hander Joba Chamberlain to the mix. The Tigers today officially announced the signing of Chamberlain to a one-year deal that is reportedly worth $2.5MM plus incentives. Chamberlain is represented by Jim Murray of Excel Sports Management.
The 28-year-old former top prospect struggled through his worst season (in terms of ERA) as a Major Leaguer in 2013, posting a 4.93 ERA with 8.1 K/9, 5.6 BB/9 and a 41.5 percent ground-ball rate in 42 innings for the Yankees. Chamberlain was significantly better away from Yankee Stadium, posting a 3.54 ERA on the road compared to a 6.23 mark at home in a roughly equal sample size. Chamberlain's velocity remained strong in his first full season back from 2011 Tommy John surgery, as he averaged a healthy 94.7 mph on his fastball.
Chamberlain will join a new-look Tigers bullpen that features active saves leader Joe Nathan in the ninth inning. Joaquin Benoit is on the free agent market but doesn't appear likely to return, and left-hander Drew Smyly figures to shift from the 'pen into the rotation following the offseason trade of Doug Fister to the Nationals. Left-hander Ian Krol, acquired in the Fister deal, should join Nathan and Chamberlain as new additions.
Further additions seem unlikely, as GM Dave Dombrowski told Lynn Henning of the Detroit News on Thursday that his offseason shopping was mostly done, save for one bullpen arm that "won't be a biggie" (Twitter link).
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports first tweeted that the Tigers were a possible landing spot for Chamberlain. ESPN's Buster Olney reported (via Twitter) that the Tigers' interest was "serious," and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that a one-year agreement was in place (Twitter link). Olney then reported news of the $2.5MM guarantee plus incentives (on Twitter).