Whether in contention or not, the New York Yankees should trade both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain before the July 31st deadline.
Those words would have been blasphemy circa 2007. That was a time when Hughes was an elite pitching prospect with five plus pitches, and Chamberlain was can’t miss television, a fireball reliever immortal against all but a swarm of Lake Erie Midges.
The two of them represented the future of the franchise, a couple of homegrown kids inheriting a lineage from Jeter and Rivera. They were untouchable. The sky was the limit.
It is clear those ceilings will not be reached. Not in pinstripes, at least.
Hughes is a guy who was bestowed with expectations entirely too high. As a blue chip prospect in the minor leagues he was advertised with a smooth 95 mph fastball. He has either lost that arm speed for good, or the scout who reported that needs glasses. On a good day he will get to 93, but in reality we are talking about a guy with an average fastball.
We’ve seen glimpses of a front-end starter, particularly in the first half of the 2010 season, when he made the All Star team. Despite tapering off in the second half Hughes finished with an 18-8 record. He has not grown from there, however.
As it stands Phil Hughes has a 4.42 E.R.A. in six and a half season with the Yankees. For him, the Achilles heal is the long ball. He has started 122 games in his career and given up 106 home runs (Hughes predominantly a reliever in 2009, a year in which eight of those home runs were hit).
Not only is he in the wrong ballpark. He could use a change of league as well. It is almost universally agreed that Hughes is a pitcher who would benefit from a move to the lighter hitting National League. Specifically, think the spacious ballparks of the NL West.
Hughes was given a 3-0 lead through four innings in Texas Tuesday night. He looked good through five innings before the tires popped in the sixth. He could not get out of the inning and was charged with three earned runs.
Chamberlain is the more enigmatic of the two. The days of triple digits may be in the past, but Joba still throws hard. With the stuff he possesses his ERA should be lower than 4.97.
Whether stunted his growth by continually trying Joba as a starter is a conversation for another day. Right now, most will agree Chamberlain’s Yankees career has run its course. There was the D.W.I., then the trampoline incident. But the end may have proved near the day he snapped at Mariano Rivera.
Joba just isn’t worth the headache.
At five games over .500 the Yankees are still in contention thanks to the second wild card, a position from which they are 3.5 games back. If they are to make a push, it is unlikely Hughes and Chamberlain will be the driving forces. The offense is the problem in the Bronx, not the pitching. And even if they rallied and qualified for the playoffs, it is doubtful either would see important innings.
In a four-man playoff rotation Phil Hughes could be among the odd men out. CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte would be locks. Ivan Nova is pitching well as of late and David Phelps is set to return from the disabled list soon. Heck, there may even be a Michael Pineda sighting.
As for Joba, the man who once commanded a unique set of rules to preserve the future prosperity of his right arm has become a fifth option among right handed relievers in Joe Girardi’s bullpen. The emergence and effectiveness of Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne has left Chamberlain expendable.
There are teams out there who need bullpen help, but it depends if those teams are willing to take on what the Yankees are so eager to export.
After the season these two former darlings of the organization hit free agency and are ineligible for arbitration. They have done their six years. Chamberlain will almost certainly not return. Hughes may command decent money in the National League, and if the Yankees are sincere in their endeavor to get below the $189 million luxury tax line, they may not be able to bring him back even if they want to.
It wold be wise to try and score a few prospects in return.
October baseball or October golf, whatever the outcome Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will have marginal impacts. Their days in pinstripes are coming to an end.
Might as well have them back their bags now.