Philadelphia Phillies: In Need of a Closer, Is Joba Chamberlain an Option?

James Stewart-MeudtCorrespondent IIApril 25, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31:  Joba Chamberlain #62 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Detroit Tigers in the seventh inning on Opening Day at Yankee Stadium on March 31, 2011 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  The Yankees won 6-3 in the ninth inning. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Worrying about who will close games for the Phillies seems almost comical. When you have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels as your front four, there's not much else to be concerned with.

The Phillies lead baseball in shut outs (5), and rank fifth in baseball in starter's ERA (3.32). They'd be even higher if not for Joe Blanton's 5.92 ERA.

However, while the Phillies would love to get complete games every night, that's not exactly realistic.

Someone has to close out these wins.

Brad Lidge landed on the DL during spring training, and could be out as late as the All-Star break.

But have no fear, because Jose Contreras took to the closer's role like a duck to water, posting a perfect 0.00 ERA and five saves in as many chances.

That's all over now, as Contreras joined Lidge on the DL yesterday with a strained tendon in his right elbow.

Oh woe is the Phillies!

Ryan Madson will now take over the ninth inning duties for Philadelphia. Madson has pitched well so far this season. He's 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in nine innings. However, Madson has never been very effective in the ninth inning. And with very limited options, the Phillies might have to look elsewhere for a closer until Lidge returns.

Madson finished last season with a 2.55 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 53 IP, but his ERA was 4.42 in 19 1/3 innings in the ninth. Not a huge sample size, but compared to his 1.52 ERA in the eighth inning, the contrast is worth noting.

Madson is off to a good start as the Phillies closer. He's 2-for-2 in save opportunities, both coming on back-to-back games against the San Diego Padres over the weekend.

But depending on how long Contreras and Lidge are out, the Phillies may find themselves in need of a closer. Madson is better suited to pitch the eighth inning. The Phillies can probably get away with Madson in the ninth for a while, but if he struggles, the Phillies will need to find a replacement.

Could they get Joba Chamberlain from the New York Yankees?

Chamberlain was supposed to be the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera. He certainly looked the part, posting a 0.38 ERA in 19 games in 2007. He's served dual roles as both a starter and reliever for the Yankees, but has never really found a home in either role.

This season, Chamberlain has a 4.91 ERA in 11 innings.

Rivera has blown back-to-back saves, but he doesn't show any signs of slowing down. The Yankees also added Rafael Soriano this offseason, who can easily step into the closer's role if needed.

The Yankees' bullpen was supposed to be their greatest strength this season, and while it hasn't exactly lived up to expectations (15th in MLB with a 3.58 ERA), they do have plenty of solid arms.

But Chamberlain is the bullpen's weakest link.

It's very possible that Chamberlain could find himself included in a mid-season trade if the Yankees decide to seek out a starting pitcher. If the Yankees are willing to deal him, and there's no reason to think they wouldn't, the Phillies could be a team interested in adding Chamberlain.

It's very possible the Phillies will give Oswalt his walking papers at the end of this season, but there's no way they'd trade him to a team they might meet in the postseason. The same goes for Hamels.

One of the Yankees' biggest problems in the bullpen is a lack of left-handed relievers. They signed Pedro Feliciano this offseason, but he couldn't make it out of spring training without landing on the DL and is likely out for the season.

Right now, Boone Logan is the only lefty option in the bullpen, and the Yankees could be interested in adding another. They intended on carrying both Logan and Feliciano this season anyway, so having two isn't a new plan.

Logan currently sports a 3.86 ERA, which is respectable, but lefties are hitting .273 against him, so he's not exactly fulfilling his role.

Perhaps the Phillies could simply pull off a one-for-one trade with the Yankees that would send Chamberlain to Philadelphia and left-handed relief options to the Bronx.

All of this, of course, is dependant on Madson proving unable to close out games. It's no guarantee he'll even have to serve that role for an extended period of time, and with their starting rotation firing on all cylinders, there's no reason to even be concerned with the ninth inning.

If the Phillies trade for Chamberlain, and Lidge returns healthy, Chamberlain simply slides back into a relief role as he's already doing now for the Yankees.

If Madson struggles, the Phillies could simply employ a closer-by-committee, as many teams are doing this season, and wait for Lidge's return.

But if they do find themselves in need of a ninth-inning arm, Chamberlain is a player the Phillies could have an interest in.