Blue Jays reportedly sign reliever Joba Chamberlain
The Toronto Blue Jays have reportedly signed former Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain. According to a report from Joel Sherman of the New York Post, it will be a Minor League deal.
Chamberlain was released by the Tigers earlier in July, and had struggled through 2015 with a 4.09 ERA. He was stronger in 2014 with an ERA of 3.57, but his strikeout totals have taken a serious hit this season as he fell victim to the long ball.
The big righty took the league by storm as a 21-year old in 2007 with the New York Yankees as a dominant relief pitcher, but the club chose to use him as a starter in parts the 2008 season and full-time through 2009. It’s been mostly downhill since that point for Chamberlain, save for a small sample from 2011, and the former first round pick has seen his career effectively bottom out.
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The initial reaction to this move will be a widespread groan, and that’s understandable. Blue Jays fans are cautiously optimistic that the team will chase an impact arm, either in the bullpen or starting rotation. This should not be seen as a move that Alex Anthopoulos is making “instead of” that, though. Not even close.
I’m of the opinion that there is rarely a bad Minor League contract. Should Sherman’s report come to fruition, the Blue Jays have very little to lose by adding Chamberlain to the AAA Buffalo Bisons. If things become desperate, they can hope to catch a streak of ten or twelve hot outings from him at the Major League level. It’s not Plan A, or even Plan C, but it’s something.
Joba isn’t the fireballer that he was years ago, but he can still bring the heat from 93 to 95 miles per hour. He also comes with a mid-80s slider and a mound personality that is, well, unique. One of the most noteworthy changes between his 2014 and 2015 statistics is his ground ball percentage, which has dropped almost 10%. This could be an issue, or simply a matter of sample size.
For the time being, Chamberlain shouldn’t be considered for the Major League bullpen. With Aaron Sanchez soon to rejoin the big league club, though, perhaps he’ll slot in at Buffalo while Toronto gets a first-hand view at what they have. Especially if the Blue Jays are forced to part with some pitching prospects ahead of the upcoming trade deadline, that will open up filler jobs within the organization. If Chamberlain fills one of those with some level of consistency, fantastic. Anything else is a bonus.
Next: Sanchez to the bullpen gives Jays options