I know every Yankee fan under the sun is probably sick and tired of hearing the Joba debate. This issue has been beaten to death in every Yankee blog, sports talk radio, and even ESPN for what seems like the last 10 years (slight exaggeration, I know). So why in the world would I be bringing this beaten down issue up once again?
Because moving Joba to the bullpen makes sense...especially now.
Don't get me wrong, the Yankees already have a pretty darn good bullpen. Jose Veras and Edwar Ramirez established themselves as quality relievers in 2008, Damaso Marte is a good left handed set up man even with his struggles in 2008, and I know Yankee people are excited to see what Phil Coke, Humberto Sanchez, and David Robertson can do. And oh yeah, the Yankees still have that Rivera guy to close games. I hear that he's pretty good.
So as we can see, the Yankees have a deep, young, and potentially very good bullpen. If they can get the ball to Rivera with the lead, the Yankees will win lots and lots of games in 2009.
But here's why Joba makes sense out of the bullpen. He would give the Yankees a dominant set up guy to get the ball to Rivera. Having Joba in the bullpen would essentially make every game a seven inning game because the combination of Chamberlain in the 8th and Rivera in the 9th should be virtually unhittable. The Yankees would go from a very very good team to a potentially scary team that could steamroll the competition if all goes well.
I know this argument has been made before. But here's the difference between now and then: the Yankees have at least three young starters who should be capable of effectively filling the rotation spot (Hughes, Aceves, Coke, etc.). This means that the Yankees have enough rotation depth to place Joba in the bullpen and not expect such a terrible drop off. I would expect former #1 pick Phil Hughes to be the favorite to take Chamberlain's starts, which should be exciting for Yankee fans.
Also, if the young guys are not the route that you prefer, the Yankees could simply go after one of the remaining free agent starters and throw a one year deal his way. SP Ben Sheets makes a ton of sense for the Yankees, who Jason from IITAMS noted, the Yankees would only have to surrender a fourth round pick for Sheets, who is a type A free agent. Basically every other team would have to surrender a 1st round pick for Sheets, but because the Yanks have already signed three Type A free agents, they would only lose the fourth round pick. That's a potentially great deal anyway you slice it.
And you have to keep in mind how much the Yankees rotation has improved this off season. Their ace coming into 2008, Chien Ming Wang, is now their third starter and the Yankees added the two best free agent pitchers on the free agent market: CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. The Yankees now can afford to have a young guy develop in the rotation instead of depending on the young guys like they did in 2008.
And as far as Chamberlain goes, he has the stuff to be an ace. But how Chamberlain performs in the rotation for an entire season is still a mystery. Joba dealt with arm issues in 2008 after moving to the starting rotation and the Yankees have continually babied Chamberlain, fearing that if they pushed him too hard that he could hurt his arm. There is no guarantee that Chamberlain can survive an entire season in the rotation or even give the Yankees 20-30 starts in 2009.
There is no doubt that Joba Chamberlain will be a major part of the Yankees' present and future. However, if the Yankees want to build the best team possible in 2009, Chamberlain in the bullpen gives them a fantastic chance to win the AL East and beyond.