The time is now to trade Joba and Hughes

image-6It still seems like yesterday when, in 2007, two Yankee mainstay pitchers of the past seven seasons made their first appearances in pinstripes.

First, there was 20-year old Phil Hughes, a hard throwing right-hander who drew comparisons to Roger Clemens as he advanced through the farm system. Drafted 23rd overall in the 2004 amateur draft, the Yankees had high hopes that finally, after a dry spell of All-Star caliber players emerging from the minors, that Hughes would become their ace for the next decade. Due to injuries to the pitching staff, he came up and made his debut on April 26th, 2007, finishing the year with 72.2 innings under his belt and a respectable 4.46 ERA for such a young starting pitcher in such a ferocious AL East division.

Then there was Joba Chamberlain, who was drafted 41st overall in 2006. Not even a full calendar year after signing his first contract, the then 21-year old Joba burst upon the scene when he pumped 100 mph fastballs past a dazed Blue Jays team in Toronto on August 7th. His pure dominance of each batter he faced allowed Joe Torre to entrust him with the eighth inning job, setting up Mariano Rivera. Like Mo had done years prior, it was the hope of the organization that Joba would start out as the bridge to a dominant closer, and then become one. Allowing one earned run in 24 innings surely reassured any of the doubters.

Since such promising starts to their careers in ’07, both Hughes and Chamberlain have endured injuries, moves into and out of the bullpen, and flat out inconsistent performances. There have certainly been bright spots along the way for both hurlers, however.

Hughes pitched to a 3.03 ERA in 2009, starting out as a starter and then filling the role of set-up man admirably. And after permanently being put back into the rotation in 2010, he won 18 games. Also, Joba was putting together a terrific 2011 season [2.83 ERA in 28.2 innings pitched] before he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Yet, to claim their Yankee careers to date have been successful ones would probably be a misguided belief. They are now in what are considered their “prime” years, and yet 2013 has been one of the ugliest for Joba and Phil. Of course, with the offense the pitching staff has to deal with or lack thereof, both are certainly under a lot of stress and any small mistakes they make are magnified like never before. But, there is no escaping the fact that both of them have underperformed, no matter the circumstances.

Yes, Hughes has had his share of good starts this season, but they are normally sandwiched in-between horrible outings. It is still fresh in this fan’s mind that he allowed 7 runs in the first inning to the Mariners, who in all respect have a better offense than last season, but certainly not good enough to put up rallies like that against even an average starter. But as I said, then he goes out the other night in Seattle against the very same team and throws seven shutout innings. It’s frustrating, bizarre, and as much potential as he has to be great every night, the times that he isn’t have really cost the Yankees so far this year.

At this point it really doesn’t matter what Joba Chamberlain does, because he is in the doghouse for eternity with Yankee fans. No matter how he “shushed” Mariano Rivera, all I care about is what happens on the field, and even still Joba has been disappointing. Granted, he did miss practically the whole month of May with a strained right oblique, but collectively in 2013 he has given up three more hits than innings pitched, a red flag right off the bat. Even when he has an “effective” outing, he still often gets into trouble  by nibbling at the corners and forgetting that he boasts a 95 mph fastball that still has some bite left in it. He too has been such a streaky pitcher, and ultimately you’d have to hope it wouldn’t last long in New York. Right?

Well, that is why I strongly consider that the Yankees trade not just one of them, but both Joba and Phil. Like I started the article saying, these two guys have been here for a long time, and it certainly would be odd not seeing them in the dugout or on the mound every other day. But it’s been shown that when they are “on”, Chamberlain and Hughes can be two of the most dominating pitchers in the American League, and that potential alone attracts pitching-deprived teams.

With the way the Yankees lineup has fallen into its worst slump since likely before I was born, I am shocked there aren’t many rumors going around about the team trading some of its pitchers. The pitching has been tremendous, Hughes and Joba aside, so what is holding back Cashman from dumping them off for a bat? I’m not talking players. A literal bat.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, but the fact remains that the Yankees are not a better team with Joba and Hughes on the roster than they are with them off it. Now I have no specific players I would target, which may be where my argument falls a bit flat, but there has to be a match somewhere. There always is, if the Yankees want one. It would be bittersweet to trade Joba, and especially Hughes, but giving up on these guys in a trade would be a signal to me that the Yanks are not by any means ready to surrender their AL East crown, which is still very much in reach with the right reinforcements.

Get to work Cash. You too Joba and Phil.

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About Brian D.

A passionate 15-year old Yankees fan who has hopes of becoming an MLB journalist or broadcaster. He brings an optimistic, yet realistic take on the Yanks to Yankees Fans Unite, and essentially lives and breathes baseball.

Posted on June 14, 2013, in Analysis, Personal Opinion, Rants, Signing & Trade Speculation and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. The main problem with this argument is that both Hughes and Chamberlain are free agents after this season, which destroys their trade value (if they have any). Even if they weren’t free agents, additional problems are that (1) you would be selling at the lowest possible time; (2) why would any team want Hughes/Joba given their lack of success this season; and (3) even if a team did actually want them, the bat you would get in return would likely be, at best, of the Brennan Boesch/Thomas Neal variety, which the Yankees already have.

    • I agree with your sentiments Brian but TIF makes good points. You won’t get a heck of a lot in trades since they are both FAs. Hughes will likely garner the Yanks another Sandwich pick in the draft next yr when he leaves via FA.

      Realistically, both have trade value but since they are FAs, they will only be attractive to contenders who likely wont give up good hitters for average pitchers. Usually contenders will trade prospects for help during the playoff chase so that is what the Yanks would likely get in return. Both Hughes and Joba could help some teams but depending on the prospects you’d get in return, the Yanks may be better off keeping them and taking the 1st rounder for Phil.

  2. Reality check, Brian. Yes, both Joba and Hughes won’t be back in ’14 (unless the front office suffers a collective aneurysm). Yes, bSanoth have underperformed over the past few seasons. Yes, both still can be effective big leaguers, in the right situations.

    For Hughes, that means a more forgiving ballpark – one where his ridiculously high fly ball rate won’t translate into as many homers. For Joba, it means a small market club where his continual missteps won’t blare nationwide headlines. Heck, maybe even one dumb enough to let him start.

    The only way either has real trade value is if you can find a team that (a) is contention and (b) has interest in signing them next season. In Hughes’ case, the currently contending teams all play in smallish parks, save the Nats and Giants. The Giants don’t really have any bats the Yankees would find useful on the block. The Nats offense is almost struggling as badly as the Yanks and they’re more likely to trade for a bat than a pitcher.

    Joba’s future is even murkier. The only team that’s even made any noise about signing him this offseason is San Diego. And middle relievers definitely don’t bring back impact bats.

    While I’m sure Cash is looking for offensive help, one thing we do know about him is he doesn’t give away the store. And he won’t trade away two players, who however flawed they are, are still useful for scrap heap retreads. Right now, that’s all you’re going to get for either.

  3. Thus is why CC is an Ace pitcher, he an Kuroda pitch gems when they are most needed.

    • doug…..your post almost proved fatal, But they dodged the bullet.
      How bad would have been if they lost in the ninth?

      • I don’t know if my tv screen would still be in tact. I was sweating it out. It had to be that way too, we can’t ever get an easy win!

        • Temper, temper, Brian….
          No sweat, the Yankees won! Which reminds me, Me thinks, we should forsake the 5-6 run wins in favor of what we got to-day. I don’t see a way for the Yankees to end up beating a team 10-5 anymore…maybe more like 4-3 or 3-2. The will is on high but, the body is not ready for high scoring games.
          Last I heard, teams need some talented players, with a mixture of old and younger players thrown in for a tip. See how it works…I think I heard a team in NY followed that recipe for many WS rings! They may want to try it again! :)

          • That’s a great point, it’s refreshing to hear some confidence out of a Yankee fan. Everyone around me can only come up with “they stink”, or “they’re done”. I think us fans can be a bit bipolar sometimes, but we have to remember this team did start out being 11 games over .500, scoring just enough and getting clutch pitching along the way. Can this team win? Sure, and it may get on a bit of a hot streak this week with the dodgers and and rays in town. But I am realistic and I can’t see this method of winning ball games keep them afloat enough to win a pennant.

            We’ll see, though. Anything can happen.

        • Brian and Patrick, I was sweating it out also, it would have been a devastating loss.

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