There was a time, in the not too distant past, when Joba Chamberlain was a major prospect for the New York Yankees. They had the ‘Joba Rules’ limiting his usage, and it was felt that Chamberlain would turn into an excellent starting pitcher, or, at worst, a dominant arm out of the bullpen. For a period of time, Chamberlain appeared poised to build upon that promise. Through 2008, he put together a 6-3 record with a 2.17 ERA, striking out 152 batters in 124.1 innings as he alternated between the rotation and the bullpen.
However, instead of turning into the dominant pitcher that he was expected to be, he turned into Joba the Hutt. His ERA expanded as his waistline did, as Chamberlain struggled with injuries and general ineffectiveness. Now, following a two year stretch where Chamberlain combined for a 4.74 ERA and a brutal 1.676 WHiP, the future pitching star for the Yankees has been cast aside by New York.
And so, enter the Royals (insider required). While this may seem to be just a shot in the dark, a reclamation project that would likely cost little for the potential return, there may be more to the Royals interest than just taking a gamble to see if a player can find his success once again. The Royals pitching coach happens to be Dave Eiland, who was the Yankees pitching coach from 2008 through 2010. Since Chamberlain had his best season of his career with Eiland in 2008, such a reunion could work out well for both the Royals and Chamberlain.
The biggest possible issue for bringing Joba Chamberlain in would be to find a role. As Chamberlain has not started a game since 2009, it is likely that he would be brought in as a reliever. Yet, relief pitching was one of the strengths of the Royals, and the entire bullpen is likely to return. It would not seem as though there would be much of a fit for Chamberlain.
Unless, of course, the idea is to try to convert Chamberlain back to starting. However, not only has Chamberlain not started in over four years, but he has better numbers over his career as a reliever. Despite his struggles over the past two years, Chamberlain has put together a 3.51 ERA and a strikeout to walk rate of just under 3.00 in relief. As a starter, the ERA goes up by over half a run, while his strikeout to walk rate drops to 2.04. It just does not seem to make much sense to attempt to convert Chamberlain to the rotation.
While Joba Chamberlain would likely be a low risk/high reward signing for the right team, he just does not seem to fill a need for the Royals. Chamberlain would be a luxury, and with the holes that the Royals need to fill, even the relatively low amount that he would cost would be better spent elsewhere.