The reliever is struggling. His ERA has ballooned to 5.95, and since allowing four runs and blowing a save in a loss to Seattle on July 10, Chamberlain has allowed eight runs on 12 hits in six innings for a 12.00 ERA.
Still, the organization has faith. It’s Chamberlain’s first full season in this role, and yes, he has to earn it, but there’s no one in the organization that believes he can’t do it.
Why, then, are Brian Cashman and Co. allegedly trying to acquire Joakim Soria?
According to Sports Illustrated, New York made a “big push” for the Royals closer over the weekend. Leading up to the deadline, the Yankees have admitted they’re interested in getting a bat off the bench and strengthening the bullpen. But there’s “strengthening the bullpen,” and there’s snagging a two-time All-Star closer from another team and shoving him into the role currently occupied by one of your team’s brightest young prospects. This could backfire; it could also be brilliant.
Soria is no slouch. This deal is kind of what the Red Sox were attempting to do when the acquired Eric Gagne at the trade deadline in 2007, but the only difference is that the Soria deal could actually pan out as expected.
Soria made his debut for the Royals at the beginning of the 2007 season, but it was in 2008 that he proved his worth, posting a 1.60 ERA with 42 saves in 67 1/3 innings. He fanned 66 and walked 19, earning his first All-Star bid. Last season, he missed most of May with a sore shoulder, but that’s been the only blip on the radar for a promising 26-year-old who would be under team control until 2014.
Meanwhile, Chamberlain has struggled in the eighth inning – and whereas Girardi preached patience a couple of weeks ago, the manager now seems to be publicly weighing other options.
In Sunday’s win over the Royals, Chamberlain started off the eighth by issuing a walk to No. 9 hitter Chris Getz, then promptly allowed a two-run homer. After the game, Girardi told the New York Daily News he was prepared to bring in David Robertson if Chamberlain allowed another baserunner.
When asked if there was a possibility the Yankees might slip Robertson into the setup role for good, Girardi answered, "If it's something that we have to do, we'll address it."
The team isn’t being shy about exploring other options, but whether those options are within the organization or on the trading block remains to be seen.
There’s always a bit of a risk involved when you take a proven closer and stuff him into a setup role, and there’s always the potential for an ego clash. Forget about the fact that Soria may not like being taken out of the closer’s role; how is Chamberlain going to feel about being very publicly and obviously second-guessed by the organization? Moreover, if New York deals for Soria and makes him the setup man, where does that leave Chamberlain?
If there’s any truth to this rumor, to say the organization’s faith in Chamberlain is wearing thin is an understatement. There’s no better way to say, "We don’t believe that you can get the job done," than going out and snagging an All-Star closer at the trade deadline and letting him take your role.