joba chamberlainLast night, I dug into John Axford as a possible bullpen target for the Chicago Cubs. Conclusion? Although he’s had a couple down years, there are reasons to believe those down years present an opportunity to buy low and enjoy a bounce back (as opposed to presenting a dude who is simply done, and should be left behind).

The short version on the next rumored relief target for the Cubs? Pretty much the same.

The Cubs, among other teams, are suitors for free agent reliever Joba Chamberlain, according to Mark Feinsand. Chamberlain, 28, has had an extremely mixed history in his time with the Yankees, having been a top prospect, a shut-down reliever, and then something of a pariah.

From 2007 to 2011, Chamberlain posted a 121 ERA+ over 382 innings in New York. He struck out 9.1 per 9 innings, walking 3.5 and allowing 0.8 homers (again, per 9 innings). In the last two years, those numbers are just an 87 ERA+ in 62.2 innings, 8.6 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, and 1.6 HR/9. He made $1.875 million last year, and the Yankees have decided to let him walk in free agency.

So, is he really worth a look?

First things first: in 2011, Chamberlain had Tommy John surgery, and in 2012, he dislocated his ankle (on a trampoline with his kids). If you’re looking for a quick and dirty explanation on his last two years of struggles, look no further. That’s obviously not an endorsement, though you can envision how a guy could be more recovered from those issues two years later, as opposed to just one.

When he’s been on the mound, Chamberlain has seen his groundball rate steadily decline over the last three years, from a lofty 59.7% in 2011, to 45.3% in 2012, and 41.5% in 2013.

It should be no surprise, then, given the nature of Yankee Stadium, that Chamberlain has been absolutely blasted at home over the last two years (.878 OPS against in 2013, .985 in 2012) while pitching much better on the road (.756, .686). His elevated walk rate (13.1% in 2013, which is inexcusably high – but much higher than previously in his career) has done him no favors, but it’s entirely possible that Chamberlain would see an uptick in his effectiveness just getting out of Yankee Stadium. (Then again, of the 11 homers he’s given up in the last two years, 6 were at home and 5 were on the road. Not a huge difference.)

As was the case with Axford, there hasn’t been a significant decline in Chamberlain’s fastball velocity, which is a good sign. His strikeout rate fell last year, but just to 19.2% from a career mark of 23.2%. In 2012, he was right there at his career mark. Perhaps 2013 was a blip. Perhaps, with the right pitching coach, Chamberlain can reign in the walks and start producing more groundballs again.

The key to any deal with Chamberlain would be the cost (I guess that’s true more often than not). Unlike Axford, whom you’d be signing on the expectation that he can be a productive member of the bullpen in 2014, Chamberlain would be a flyer. He’s a virtual lock to get a Major League deal from someone, though I doubt he gets two years. One year and a couple million is probably the maximum someone will be willing to guarantee him. If he is willing to take a one-year-plus-team-option type deal, that could be a very nice signing.

  • Eric

    He’s worth a flyer but, like Hughes, that flyball rate makes me uneasy.

  • Crazyhorse

    Or he can frustrate the team by being the Joba Chamberlain that Yankees have given up on. This front office buys lottery tickets most fail – lose a dollar here and there no biggie its only a dollar. Sign so many lottery tickets that underperform while taking up space on the 25 man roster and then paying for a replacement player to take those spots to perform is laughable.

    • frank

      Isn’t it the nature of lottery tickets that most fail–no matter which front office takes the chance?

  • Jay

    I do not want anything to do with this goon. I’m not even being rational here—I don’t care about numbers, about salary, about anything. I hate Joba more than I’ve ever hated a player since Manny Alexander, and I hated Manny simply because he was easily the worst excuse for a MLB player I’ve ever seen. Joba I just hate the sight of him.

    • Eric

      Wow. Way to own the crazy.

    • Rebuilding

      Tell us how you really feel Jay lol

    • JulioZuleta

      Fair. Met him at a friend’s engagement party a few years ago in Westchester, NY. He was seeing my buddy’s fiancée’s friend. It was a small-ish get together, 25-30 people. When I shook his hand and introduced myself, he didn’t say a word. Very clear he felt like he was above the whole thing and was doing everyone a favor. He sat at a table off to the side on his phone the entire night. Not a good due.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        ANd if any of that were relevant to how well he could pitch, then I would be concerned! (As it so happens, I do have some concerns about his baseball skills: and he could do 5 hour shifts for Amnesty International every day, and I would still have them.)

  • woody

    Axford sound like a better candidate to me. I think he would like to come to the Cubs to re-establish his value.

  • Cheese Chad

    Why are there so many negative comments on here. Brett, it’s getting scawy in hew. Some people are meeeeany heads!


  • Brian Peters

    You’re kidding, right?????

  • Funn Dave

    That is one ugly individual.

  • Brian Peters

    I’ve been fairly patient with the whole rebuilding thing, but the Cubs aren’t even trying to make next year more successful, even by just one game.

  • Jon

    One teams trash is the Chicago Cubs treasure

    • waittilthisyear

      i think if you say it a couple hundred more times, you might get the positive reinforcement you so desperately crave

  • 70’scub

    After Marmol, sign him one year w/club option only. Axford comes with two additional years of control on a single year contract. Why not sign both guys, it sucked watching the Cubs tank the 8/9 innings the past three years.

  • Oh-Henry

    I would rather take a chance on Axford too. I am with Jay, although I simply do not like him for the pinstripes that have been on his back for years. Save the money and bring up some AAA relief this year.

  • rockin’ dawg

    Yes on Axford, no on Joba.

    • GP1

      I agree. Please no Joba, he is horrible

  • Rebuilding


    C – Castillo – league average and improving
    1b – Rizzo – needs to solve LHP but above league average
    2b – Baez – potential star/superstar (Alcantera)
    3b – Bryant – potential star/superstar (Baez)
    SS – Castro – biggest ?. Was way above league average
    LF – ? (Lake as platoon) (Soler)
    CF – ? (Almora) (Trade – Eaton?)
    RF – ? (Soler) (Bryant)

    SP1 – ? (Tanaka?)
    SP2 – ? (Trade – Anderson?)
    SP3 – Samardzija (Edwards) (Trade – Skaggs?)
    SP4 – Wood
    SP5 – Jackson (Arrieta) (Rusin) (Hendricks) (Ramirez) (Cabrera) (Grimm)

    To me here is where we stand. Won’t go into relief pitchers here. We are a few moves away from being 2015 competitive. We need 2 OFs and 2 arms (or Samardzija to become a #2) Tanaka is a must. If Alcantera develops Bryant goes to the OF. Then we need 1 OF

    • Rebuilding

      When I say 2 OFs I assume that a Lake/Sweeney platoon will be league average or above

    • aaronb

      Seems like a lot of faith to rubber stamp us “just a couple moves from competing”. The best hitter in that lineup is a .735 Ops-ing First baseman. 4 who haven’t graduated past A ball. And a whole outfield of question marks.

      Literally EVERYTHING needs to break right for that team to win 75 games in 2015.

      • Rebuilding

        If everything breaks right that team could win 95 games. If breaking right means you assume: signing Tanaka, trading for Anderson, Alcantera developing into league average 2b, Baez and Bryant being above league average (not hard to do at 2b/3b), trading Samardzija for Skaggs and Eaton, Casto duplicating 2011 (755 OPs)

        • Rebuilding

          I’m assuming 1/3 of that and it’s 83-85 wins

          • aaronb

            2 league average hitters, 2 rookies and 5 question marks. Travis Wood and this year Iowa Cubs rotation is the recipe for 95 wins?

            Ain’t happening unless MLB adopts a 240 game season in 2015.

            • Rebuilding

              Tanaka projects as a 4-5 WAR SP, Anderson has been 3-4 WAR pitcher when healthy, Samardzija and Wood are 3 WAR pitchers. Castillo was 4 WAR last season, Rizzo was 2.5 WAR, Baez and Bryant, given the lack of quality at those positions, are likely 2 WAR players if they start THIS season (with a much higher ceiling), Castro was a 4 WAR player in 2010 and 2011, Lake/Sweeney is a 3 WAR platoon. Like I said – we need a CF and RF and to get 2 arms

              • aaronb

                So the plan is for everybody to have career years with no injuries or regression.

                I have my doubts.

        • woody

          Unfortunately there seems to be this disconnect with the ownership which says that the renovation are somehow linked to the team on the field. Like they want to field a crappy team until revenues come rolling in. I agree that we have enough in house talent to compete in 2015 if we get these guys some playing time in 2014. To me if they don’t sign Samardzija and get a return of some pitcher that are two years away, then that is an indication that 2015 is in the toilet too. And there is no excuse for that at all. They are offering Samardzija a contract that is along the lines of what they gave Jackson. And you tell me how many GM’s would take Jackson over the Shark? If they want to keep him and pay him 55 million for 5 years then they need a signing bonus like Jackson got to sweeten the pot. Give him 10 mil. upfront. Then add another starter in the off season next year. And we are in contention.

          • Eternal pessemist

            Revenue (ie renovation benefits) are linked to salaries…uh, yes.

            • Roland

              You know if they had any balls(Ricketts) they would go play at the cell or Milwaukee for 2 years while they remodel Wrigley. I bet the Rooftop owners would trip over themselves if they said we are about to sign a two year agreement to play elsewhere unless you sign this agreement. But NO we have to sit here and wait until they get there stuff together like we have not waited for over 100 yrs. So I guess the mentality is we love to wait. So let’s just drag our feet and let everyone else slow down the revenue process instead of being like every other sports team and get what they want and almost all of the others do not even pay for it. They have mishandled this process from the start and now it is affecting what kind of team we have to watch and how long we have to watch crap.

    • Brains

      so basically a 100% placement rate for our minor leagues. something that has never happened in the history of baseball, and with a minor league system that’s ranked but with inconsistent players. hope you’re not your family financial investor cause it sounds like you put savings bonds into roulette.

  • jmc

    dumpster diving

  • SenorGato

    I am a fan of the arm when it’s healthy, and consider him one of the more talented change of scenery free agents. I wonder if someone like the Royals will overpay, and the usual “at the right price” caveat holds especially true in this case.

  • Carew

    I could go either way with this. What I am curious about is if they could go after Corey Hart? It would provide a solid bat, but poor defense. Any thoughts?

    • Funn Dave

      His hair would be a bad fit in Chicago, I’m afraid.

  • clark addison

    If Chamberlain were playing anywhere besides New York, few would have heard of him.

    He’s done. Never was. Stay far, far away.

    • Blackhawks1963

      Yep. He sucks. Do not want.

  • R.E.S

    I would rather use a 40 man to protect Marcos Mateo from the rule 5 than give one to Joba. Marcos was looking like a good bullpen arm for the Cubs, then he got hurt for like two years and I kind of forgot about him. He came back and the end of the year last year and was quietly good in the minors and now he is pitching really well in the winter league.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Joba sucks. If he didn’t of was salvageable then the Yankees would have kept him. I don’t want this lottery ticket.

    • Chris S

      +1… If the great Larry Rothschild couldn’t get him on track, I don’t see how Bosio will fair much better.

  • http://BN Sacko

    A couple problems of me chumping at the bit for our big four to arrive is how they will actually turn out in MLB. And that’s not even including injury on the way. The other I’m not wanting anyone traded from the minors as they seem my only hope for anything with our lack of movement. But we would have to assemble something Yankee like right now to compete in our own division anyway, for now. The only fit so far would have been Ellsbury and that is just crazy money on one player, no regrets. However the fact..yes fact “at this time” we are gonna be HS. so much so I still believe thats why Shark isn’t signing. I don’t think it is the money. Considering all we are about a .500 team in 2015.

  • Brains

    if the cubs sign joba, we should immediately fire jed

    • Jim L

      Damn right, we should grab our pitchforks and torches and burn down the offices at 1060 W. Addison!!!

      • Brains

        a simple change in management would do

  • Ryan

    Whether or not Joba’s a good call, the FO has actually done pretty well with their short-term pickups. The cubs have gotten outstanding value from maholm, Feldman, Gregg, and schierholtz – sure, Stewart was a bust a and baker never got healthy, but taken as a group the cubs’ short-term signings have, in the whole, look pretty shrewd.

    • Reality Check

      you forgot scott hairston, fujikawa, lendy castillo, thomas neal, darnell mcdonald, shawn camp started out good; then went really bad, gregg did not get flipped so he served no purpose, maholm’s trade got us the braves version of angel guzman.

      actually most of the short term stuff has been garbage. not shrewd.

      • Brains

        the important point is that the cubs are only invested in short term garbage. this offseason is no different. we are not going to make a good faith bid on tanaka. get over it guys.

      • Ryan

        Meh. Fujikawa got hurt, could have happened to anybody. The rest were bit part players. I’m confused tho – if the objective is to win games, then a guy who solidified the ‘pen and saved 33 games is useless if we didn’t flip him? Same with Schierholtz… great value pickup. Maholm and Feldman both produced well and got the Cubs a nice return at the deadline…

        Understand the frustration, but what’s your proposition? Sign a bunch of big-ticket FA’s? Cubs aren’t going to be good lontg-term unless they build from within.. yeah it sucks now, but I’d rather wait and have the foundation for a team that contends for a decade rather than try and cobble together a team that could compete for a season or two at the expense of the long-term.

  • Die hard

    Sharks fins must be curling at the thought of Cubs spending one dime on anyone before making him an offer he can’t refuse.

  • Die hard

    If Cubs want to take a flyer on a player then should aim higher like Crawford or Kemp

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Trade Samardzija and Samardzija to the Royals for Zimmer and Hochevar and make Hochevar your closer.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Schierholtz and Samardzija.

  • woody

    Somebody please wake me up before opening day.

  • bobk

    Joba is young still and has a lot of experience for his age. I could see him being a rejuvenated relief pitcher coming off some injury riddled seasons. A buy low asset with flip ability if he performs seems like the formula. We blew like 20 sv’s early last year off of quality starting pitching. A better bullpen and some youth being slowly added this year could be a nice start. Tanaka would be ideal.

  • Ballgame

    “I hate Joba more than I’ve ever hated a player since Manny Alexander” -Jay. Almost died laughing when I read this, Manny Alexander is my least favorite Cub of all time! Glad someone shares the same sentiment…

    • calicubsfan007

      I agree with you there Ballgame. At least the guy was kind of useful for the Cubs compared to any other team, which really isn’t saying much. It is sad when a .254 batting average is the highest of averages for all the teams he played for. He did put his best numbers with the Cubs, which again, is not saying much.

    • cms0101

      My least favorite Cub… Scott Servais. No-hit, couldn’t catch, couldn’t throw runners out… Yet Riggleman trotted him out there every day. There’s always the obligatory Milton Bradley. My only memories of Manny Alexander are of him being Sammy’s steroid mule and of him being horrible on the bases, overrunning bags or getting picked off. Good times.