17.8. After 14 combined seasons filled with injuries, bad luck, bad developmental decisions, and just plain bad pitching, that’s what the Yankees have to show for their years of team control over Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. 17.8 fWAR. Or if you prefer the BR version, 13.4. That’s over the course of 442 appearances and 1,225.1 innings pitched, and you don’t have to be a sabermetric genius to figure out that’s not exactly prime bang for your buck in terms of value. Hughes and Chamberlain never lived up to the hype as pitching prospects and as of 12 o’clock this morning, with no qualifying offers in their hands, they were free to leave the Yankees and pursue a fresh start with a new ballclub. Chances are microscopically slim that either will return to the Yankees next season.
This is probably the final time I’ll have to write about either of these guys, and this isn’t meant to be a final kick in their asses on their way out the door. I’ve spent plenty of time and taken up enough blog space doing that over the last few years. No, this is just another reminder of how far the Yankees need to go to right their ship when it comes to developing starting pitching. I started writing about the Yankees in 2009 and they didn’t know what they were going to do with Hughes and Joba then. 4 years later they still had no clue how best to use them as both were on their way out the door.
There were a lot of missed opportunities with Phil and Joba, opportunities that could have this team on a much different path this offseason had things played out differently. The need for good young pitching is still there and there isn’t a clear cut next in line when it comes to prospects right now. Phelps and Warren may have already reached their Major League ceilings, ManBan hasn’t pitched in a meaningful game in over a year, and who knows what to make of Jose Campos and Ty Hensley.
Hopefully, somewhere in a notebook or a set of meeting minutes, somebody has jotted down a few tips on how to handle this next batch of pitching prospects, lessons learned from the failures with Hughes and Joba. If the Yankees are at least smart enough to not repeat those mistakes, that might end up being the biggest contribution Phil and Joba made to the team in their time in pinstripes.
(Photo courtesy of Noah K. Murray/The Star-Ledger)