Is Joba Chamberlain an Option for the Bullpen?


Joba Chamberlain (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

The Astros need help in the bullpen. Last season, it was dreadful and essentially gave the Astros no chance of winning games in the late innings. That needs to change for 2014.

However, the good thing is that Houston has what pretty much amounts to a blank slate to work with. And, perhaps more importantly, there are plenty of available options. Greg Thurston detailed many of the possibilities, but another reliever I think the Astros should consider is Joba Chamberlain.

Chamberlain is talented. He throws hard, is a former first round pick, and has had some periods of success at the big league level. The fact that it came in New York for the Yankees has to count for something. But at the same time, the Yankees do not want Chamberlain back. That also has to count for something.

The hard throwing right hander came up in 2007 and took the league by storm. Chamberlain followed that up with a successful 2008, and that is when his career began to spiral downward.

In 2011 Chamberlain had a 2.83 ERA in 27 games striking out 24 batters in 28.2 innings prior to needing Tommy John surgery. There was then the ankle injury debacle of 2012 followed by the subsequent struggles that concluded his Yankees’ career.

At this point, the former first round pick is solely a reliever. He has not started a game since 2009, and that ship has sailed. The first troubling thing about Chamberlain, is that the Yankees do not want him back. But that does not mean he is not in demand, nor that he does not have any value.

The folks over at Call to the Pen (our general baseball site), had a piece this morning that no fewer than 12 teams are interested in the reliever. Last season, he earned $1.9 million, and it is likely that he will have to take a pay cut this year.

This is the perfect case of buying low on a hard throwing reliever with upside. Last season Chamberlain had an ERA of 4.93 and appeared in 42 innings striking out 38 batters with a troubling WHIP of 1.74.

I’m not saying that the one time phenom is going to save the day for the Astros bullpen. But the hard thrower could add value as a 7th or an 8th inning arm. I think the change of scenery could help Chamberlain. He still throws hard (per Fangraphs his fastball averaged 94.6 mph) and will be 28 on Opening Day.

At one point the Yankees thought he would be a top of the rotation ace and then perhaps a successor to Mariano Rivera, so taking a shot on him can’t hurt. Although, it would not be prudent for the Astros to base their 2014 bullpen construction around him.

What do you think?