When Joba Chamberlain reported to spring training, he was noticeably heavier. Even Yankees GM Brian Cashman said "Joba's obviously heavier. Let's just leave it at that."
Well, at this rate, the Yankees may want to leave Chamberlain in Florida when they break camp, because he isn't showing any signs that he wants a role with this team.
When the offseason began, the Yankees put all their focus into signing Cliff Lee. That didn't work out. Desperate to make a splash, the Yankees front office went around Cashman and signed reliever Rafael Soriano.
The addition of Soriano to the Yankees pen stirred rumors of a return to the starting rotation for Chamberlain, which were quickly squashed when the Yankees went out and signed every low-risk starting pitcher they could find.
Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre will all compete for two open spots in the starting rotation.
Given the strength of the Yankees' bullpen right now and the numerous candidates for the starting rotation, Chamberlain's role on this team is in serious doubt.
Showing up to camp looking like he took all the boxes of Cap'n Crunch that CC Sabathia gave up only makes the Yankees' decision easier.
Most Yankees fans believe the team will make a midseason trade for a starting pitcher. Their need for one is obvious, and with their farm system deep enough to acquire almost any available player, Chamberlain could easily find himself as no more than a "throw-in" in any trade.
Last season, Chamberlain posted a 4.40 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP in 71.2 IP.
His up-and-down career has always been blamed on the Yankees' mismanagement of his role. Chamberlain first came up in 2007 as a reliever. After posting a 0.38 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 24 innings, the suggestions of Chamberlain as a successor to Mariano Rivera were unavoidable.
He made 12 starts in 2008 but was sent back to the bullpen thanks to the so-called "Joba Rules".
When he finally became a full-time starter in 2009, the results weren't great. Chamberlain made 31 starts that season, going 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA.
Now, in 2011, Chamberlain is not really needed as a starter or a reliever. With Soriano, Rivera, David Robertson, Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano in the bullpen, Chamberlain is the weakest link.
In 43 career starts, Chamberlain is 13-9 with a 3.67 ERA—not terrible and pretty good for a No. 5 starter, yet the Yankees seem totally unwilling to give Chamberlain a chance to start again.
So it seems the answer is a resounding "NO" when the question of Chamberlain as a starter is brought up, and he's barely needed in the bullpen. If Chamberlain doesn't figure this out in a hurry, he'll find himself shipped out as part of a package for a starting pitcher during the season.
Chamberlain still holds value. He can still be a decent starting pitcher or an important bullpen piece—just not for the Yankees. If the St. Louis Cardinals asked for Chamberlain in a trade for Chris Carpenter, do you really think the Yankees would refuse? Not a chance.
This is Chamberlain's last stand. With nowhere else to go and no definite role, Chamberlain needs to make some serious statements during spring training. He has a contract, so he'll be with the team this season, but for how long after that is up to him.