With the recent flurry of offseason trades and signings from teams like the Dodgers, Padres, and Marlins, it's easy for Brewers fans to look at the lack of major activity and be somewhat upset. If you're not getting better, then you're getting worse, right? Not necessarily.
As the roster stands right now, no blockbuster moves need to be made to upgrade the team. The outfield is set with Khris Davis in left, Carlos Gomez in center, Ryan Braun in right and Gerardo Parra backing up all 3 positions. Likewise, Aramis Ramirez is coming back for one more year to man third, while Jean Segura is looking to bounce back after a brutal 2014. Scooter Gennett is penciled in as the everyday second baseman, and Adam Lind is poised to bring balance to the dark abyss that was first base over the previous 2 years. Jonathan Lucroy, the MVP candidate and arguably the best catcher in baseball, will be handling a solid and reliable starting 5.
The only places that really need to be upgraded are the bench and the bullpen. In this post, I'll begin to tackle the bullpen and give one suggestion for a possible addition. In a later post, I will finish my other suggestions. If anyone has any other suggestions, I'll gladly listen.
Relief pitchers are notoriously difficult to gauge their talent and predict future performance. For example, Brandon Kintzler was an extremely reliable late inning reliever in 2013. He posted an ERA of 2.69 and a FIP of 2.54 across 77 innings. 2014 was a completely different story. His ERA and FIP bloated to 3.24 and 4.68 respectively. Kintzler's 2014 ERA isn't terrible but FIP suggests that something changed drastically for the worse in the strikeout, walk, hit by pitch, and homerun departments. Next year, he could return to his 2013 production level. With that said, let's dive right in to the free agent relief pitcher dumpster and try to pull out the next Zach Duke! (Disclaimer: If you want to literally jump into dumpsters, I am not responsible for any property damage or bodily harm. Use your best judgement.)
Let's start with the righties first.
Exhibit A: Joba Chamberlain
2015 Age 29
2014 Team: Detroit Tigers
Joba Chamberlain is a very curious case who is difficult to figure out. He spent parts of 7 seasons as a member of the New York Yankees from 2007 to 2013. The former first round draft pick began his MLB career as a reliever. Then, in 2009, Chamberlain got an opportunity to start full time. That didn't work out so well. The results were a 4.75 ERA backed up by 4.82 FIP. What happens when starters fail badly? They get moved to the bullpen where fastball velocity and strikeouts increase. That's exactly what happened to our friend Joba. In his case, it was a return to the bullpen. Back in familiar territory for the 2010 season, Joba excelled while posting a 2.98 FIP over 71 innings. The 2011 through 2013 seasons saw the Yankees' reliever endure a number of injures on his way to averaging just over 30 innings per year during that span. It's important to note that he underwent Tommy John Surgery in the summer of 2011. Other injuries include a dislocated ankle and strained oblique. As far as the 2014 season goes, the Tigers signed him for $2.5 million plus incentives to fix their shaky bullpen.
Now that we have a brief history of Joba Chamberlain, what skills does he possess that might make him look attractive in a Brewer's uniform. (In the baseball sense of course! Unless you really dig beards...)
First off, Joba would be considered for a fairly high leverage role in the Brewers' bullpen. In my opinion, he could man the 7th or 8th innings for RRR, though he shouldn't be limited exclusively to those innings. Now for some more stats.
2014 AL Relievers K/9: 8.31
2014 Chamberlain K/9: 8.43
2014 AL Relievers GB%: 44.7%
2014 Chamberlain GB%: 53.2%
Chamberlain brings a roughly league average strikeout ability along with the ability to induce weak contact via ground balls. While the Brewers do have a couple of ground ball relievers (Kintzler, Jeffress, and Wooten), they have not shown the ability to combine that with strikeouts. Having a reliever that can get a ground ball double play or a strikeout in a tough situation has its advantages.
Chamberlain isn't without risk though. His injury history is more than a little concerning. Not to mention his general lack of effectiveness from 2012 and 2013 when he finally did make it to the field. But, these risks should be somewhat mitigated by a team-friendly contract. He most likely will only require 1 year and $2.75 to $3.75 million dollars. If a team really likes him, then 2 years and $7 million is probably the ceiling.
Bottom Line - Bringing a combination of strikeout and groundball inducing ability, the Brewers' bullpen would greatly appreciate the services of Joba Chamberlain for the 2015 season.
In my next post, I will analyze some other candidates for the Brewers' bullpen.
All stats courtesy of Fangraphs.