It’s no surprise that the Yankees chose to tender a contract to Joba Chamberlain. Even though he’s arbitration-eligible and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, they can afford the award it goes to the table; or they can come to an agreement for a dollar figure close to the $1.4 million he was paid in 2011.
But if this were “Justin Smith” rather than the overhyped, abused, misused and ravaged Joba Chamberlain—the name that launched a thousand T-shirts, outrageous expectations and overprotective paranoia—would the Yankees have offered him a contract?
They could’ve told someone with his remaining talent that they didn’t want to go to the arbitration and they were non-tendering him with the hope that he’d sign a contract to return, but that was running the risk of another team making a better offer and increased role.
Perhaps, in this too-quiet winter, the Yankees didn’t want to deal with the fallout of cutting ties with a pitcher that they essentially relegated to the 6th inning.
It’s a far cry from the Roger Clemens-like monster they created upon his arrival in the majors as a force of nature causing concussive nuclear reverberations throughout baseball in August of 2007.
With the Yankees newfound reliance on statistics and theories detailing the lack of importance of pre-9th inning relief pitchers in the scope of an entire season, the baseball people didn’t want to pay Rafael Soriano that absurd amount of money to be their 8th inning man before he showed himself to be mentally weak, selfish and homer-prone; after the fact, they absolutely regretted the signing and surrendered draft pick.
But Soriano’s a Yankee and he’s not going anywhere with two years remaining on his contract at $25 million.
David Robertson’s emergence as an All-Star and more trustworthy, cheaper set-up man than both Soriano and Chamberlain has created a redundancy. When Chamberlain returns, he’ll be an extra arm with diminished stuff making a lot of money for a pitcher in his role.
If he were cornered and asked off-the-record whether he would’ve preferred to pay Chamberlain to come back or let him go, the increasingly ruthless and honest GM Brian Cashman would probably say if it were entirely up to him he’d have let Chamberlain go and either tried to pay him a lower salary or wished him luck if someone else made a better offer.
Financially Chamberlain’s paycheck is nothing to the Yankees; but in practice, he’s nothing for them either.
So what do they need him for?