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Joba For Pelfrey

By Howard Megdal ~ January 17th, 2011. Filed under: Howard Megdal, New York Mets, New York Yankees.

Though the two New York teams seldom make deals with one another, a straight-up, one-for-one trade of Joba Chamberlain for Mike Pelfrey would satisfy both the potential short-term and long-term needs of each club.

In the case of Pelfrey, the Yankees would receive a pitcher who just turned 27, is remarkably durable and consistent, and would immediately solidify the back end of the team’s rotation. With the 2011 plan clearly to get through six innings and turn it over to the bullpen, having a pitcher like Pelfrey- whose last three seasons are comparable to what the team received from Chien-Ming Wang- would provide a huge boost. And Pelfrey’s durability means the Yankees have a bulwark against injuries/ineffectiveness by everyone in the rotation not named CC Sabathia or Phil Hughes.

As for Chamberlain, the new Yankee plan calls for him to pitch extraordinarily low leverage innings. Why not turn that spot into a strong rotation option instead? Furthermore, Pelfrey’s age allows him to slot in with Hughes and Sabathia over the longer term, and puts that much less pressure on the talented trio of Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman. If all three pan out, great- the Yankees can deal Pelfrey. But that’s asking a lot of pitching prospects- more likely, at least one will not.

Why would the Mets do it? Easy- in Joba Chamberlain, they’d acquire a better bet to pitch at the front of their rotation than anyone they can reasonably expect to add in the near future. The pitching prospects in the system most likely to provide that level of pitching are Jenrry Mejia, who has yet to dominate consistently above Single-A (thanks, Jerry Manuel!) while battling multiple injuries last season, and Matt Harvey, who has yet to pitch a professional inning. It would be the height of folly to plan on either one being ready to dominate in 2012. Meanwhile, next winter’s free agent pitching market is similarly uninspired.

Chamberlain, entering his age-25 season, has a career 4.18 ERA and 8.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 42 career starts. Considering that he did this in the American League East, it is hard to see him as less than the Mets’ number one starter in a deal for Pelfrey. Yes, that is a reflection of a thin rotation- his competition for ace, after all, is R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese and Chris Capuano- but a healthy Chamberlain could provide the top-tier starter the Mets desperately need, while the chances of Pelfrey taking a step forward are far less.

In essence, for the Mets, this is betting on the guy with twice Pelfrey’s strikeout rate in  more difficult league. Pretty easy choice for the Mets, a team in need of more upside with an eye on 2012.

In essence, for the Yankees, this is adding a durable ground ball machine to an ultra-thin rotation at the expense of a guy who is pitching the sixth inning for your team. Pretty easy choice for the Yankees, a team in need of more certainty out of the starting rotation to win in 2011.

If the two teams could make a deal for Rafael Santana, they certainly should find a way to exchange these chips.

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Howard Megdal is the Editor-in-Chief of The Perpetual Post. He covers baseball, basketball and soccer for Capital New York, MLBTradeRumors.com, New York Baseball Digest and has written for ESPN.com as well as numerous other publications. He is the Poet Laureate for SBNation New York. His book about Jewish baseball players, “The Baseball Talmud,” is available for purchase on Amazon.com and wherever books are sold. His next book, "Taking The Field", is available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will publish in May 2011.

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21 Responses to Joba For Pelfrey

  1. Borys

    You my friend are nuts. Since when has Joba establish himself as a guy to put on top of a rotation? lol. I rather keep pelfrey who should of made the all star game with his first half stats

  2. Stu B

    Howard, some of your reasoning may be sound, but sometimes look and feel also are important. First, at 27, Pelfrey’s young enough to be part of the Mets’ future. Second, not in a million years would I trade him straight up for Joba, physically a fat toad in the mold of Hideki Irabu and possibly an injury waiting to happen if he doesn’t improve his conditioning.

    I suppose I might consider if the Yankees throw in a young arm, like Ivan Nova or one of their up-and-coming minor leaguers.

  3. Peter

    You are so very stupid.

  4. Howard Megdal

    Just really curious for those Mets fans who think this is so crazy- what exactly do you expect from Mike Pelfrey? And what do you expect from a Joba moving from AL to NL?

  5. Stu B

    How about 15-16 wins, a 3.6-3.8 ERA, and a 1.2-1.4 WHIP, numbers he posted last year and very comparable to Phil Hughes. How about Hughes for Pelfrey? That would be pretty fair. And you seriously wanted to be GM of the Mets, Howard? A scary thought if you would give up Pelfrey, a solid starter in his prime for an overweight, overrated middle reliever like Chamberlain. I expect more from Mr. Alderson.

  6. Stu B

    PS – It seems like you Yankee fans who dream up these ridiculous ideas never want the Yankees to part with any player integral to their team’s plans. Why not give up the fat dude you don’t trust after the 6th inning for a guy to plug in as your no. 3 starter.

  7. Lisa from Subway Squawkers

    Howard, I’m a Yankee fan, and I have to say that this trade is incredibly one-sided in favor of the Yankees. After a great beginning to his career, we’ve Joba become a failed starter, then go back into the bullpen and basically be a failed reliever who was the mop-up guy by the time the playoffs rolled around. How is he worth Pelfrey?
    Even on the Mets, Joba would not be a No. 1 starter. He’s just not that good.

    Believe me, I would love if the Yankees did this deal. But it’s not very likely that the Mets would go for it.

  8. Mike Silva

    To be fair to Howard, this piece is more about trading a known commodity for upside. He believes Joba CAN be better than Pelfrey. There is nothing wrong with 15 wins and a 3.60 ERA, but Big Pelf has bouts of inconsistency, and is reliant on his defense since he doesn’t strike a lot of batters out. Joba’s talents profile as an ace.

    With that said, I don’t make this trade because I don’t believe in Joba. I don’t think he’s demonstrated the ability to make adjustments through his big league career. As Chad Jennings pointed out on the show last night, his secondary stuff hasn’t developed like the Yankees would like. If Joba could be what Howard thinks, why can’t he crack a rotation with Mitre in the backend? I don’t think he gets to Pelfrey’s level, much less higher, in his career. It’s not talent, it’s the ability to put his talent together and understand how to pitch. Joba appears to be one of those ” I am happy to be here” characters

    The thought process of Howard is solid, I just don’t think Chamberlain is a guy I would put my eggs in a basket for.

  9. Howard Megdal

    Stu, I do find it amusing that you called me a Yankee fan. But that aside, notice that Pelfrey’s peripherals remained constant from 08-10. He’s been about a true 4.5 ERA pitcher. Joba’s career ERA as a starter is 4.18, but his peripherals suggest he has significant room to grow from that. He’s also two years younger, giving him more time to grow.
    It comes down to, like Mike said, trading a known quantity for upside. If the Yankees had bothered giving Joba a chance to just start 30-35 games, period, and learn as he went, I believe we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because Joba would one of their cornerstones.
    And Lisa, just because the Yankees moved him around doesn’t change the fact that his numbers were strong, both as a starter first time in the league and even last season (his periphs suggest a ton of bad luck). I respect your opinion on Joba, though- why do you dismiss his peripherals so quickly?

  10. Stu B

    True enough about Pelfrey’s Pitching Peripherals (love that alliteration, lol), Howard, but entering his age 27 season, he’s a strong bet to do better in the next 5-6 years as he matures and sharpens his mental approach. He seems superior intellectually to Joba, and that’s an important aspect of pitching.

  11. RonOK

    Howard, I am not a Pelfrey fan by any means …. there is something about him I do not trust — especially in big situations. Admittedly, he really hasn;t had any big situations as a Met, but there is just something about him that I don’t trust and I certainly do not see him as an ace …. maybe a #2 but more likely a solid #3 or #4.

    That said I d not do this trade — I do not see the “upside” you see in Joba … call it mishandling by the Yankees, but he did not set the world on fire as a starter and he may have “potential” but what exactly is that potential … that if a #3 starter?

    If you think he has ace potebtial, then we will have to disagree …. there would need to be more coming back from the Yankees to do this for me …. oe-for-one? No way.

  12. Tom w

    Your maddddd!!! There is no comparison not upside for the mets…who would inherit ANOTHER head case and lose a solid starter with an era a full point lower than joba and nearly 3x the IP in 2010…and yes joba has more k’s…..pelf is a groundball pitcher lol…

    I see your logic of if he would of started 30+ games then he might of done better….but he mught not of also lol…

    I just dont see how this wod benefit the mets in the least bit….we have enough bad contracts. Id rather sign rick ankiel to pitch than joba lol


  13. Stu B

    If we’ve learned one thing from this trade idea, it’s that we Mets fans should be very thankful that the whole Megdal-for-GM thing never gained traction. Howard, if you’re not a Yankees fan, you sure had me fooled. I’m fairly certain that no Mets fan in his/her right mind would propose something like this.

    If you believe that Pelfrey would have value to the Yankees as a starter this year, than something like Pelfrey for Adam Warren and David Phelps would be the kind of deal Frank Cashen called a “foundation trade” when he traded Lee Mazzilli to Texas for Ron Darling and Walt Terrell, and something Mr Alderson should seriously consider.

    I wish people would stop trying to come up with deals in which the Yankees can pawn off Joba for greater value.

  14. Tom w

    I think the yanks best bet with joba is to ship him to a small-mid market team in the central somewhere(al or nl) snd take what you can get in return…he isnt built for big markets but would prob do well in kc, pittsburg or houston….no pressure from angry yankee fans and less expectations…

    Sidenote….the yanks have

  15. Tom w

    The yanks have bigger starting issues than the mets do IMHO….. They have cc, whom they can count on, hughes…who SHOULD be good….and then question marks until the 8th inning lol..i have much more faith in pelf-niese-dickey than i would in cc-hughes-burnett….espec once johan comes back..

    Johan-pelf-dickey dbeats on cc-hughes-burnett with ease….and thats not even talking numbers 3-4 starters

  16. Howard Megdal

    Stu, we’ll agree to disagree. But I’ll leave you with this thought about your alternative trade, one I do like for the Mets. Joba Chamberlain put up better peripherals in the major leagues than Adam Warren put up in Single-A and Double-A combined this year. Same with David Phelps and Double-A/Triple-A.
    Chamberlain’s an arm I like, based on major league success.

  17. Stu B

    Whatever the specific names, it would behoove the Mets to deal veterans for quantity of young arms and players, as they once did in the Mazzilli-Darling/Terrell trade. I am not qualified to judge if Warren is better than Phelps, or vice versa, or if either is better than Joba was at the same point in his development. So maybe the best deal of this type for the Mets would be Pelfrey for Chamberlain and Warren, or Chamberlain and Phelps. But they should get quantity if they’re going to trade a chip like Pefrey for future value.

    On the subject of Met-Yankee trades, I’ve often wondered why there have been so many fewer than deals between the Cubs and White Sox or Dodgers and Angels.

  18. Gehoff

    I see the logic to this idea but I’m not sure I’d do it if I am either team.

  19. AstoriaMetsFan

    I fail to see how trading an above average starting pitcher who’s twice pitched more than 200 innings on a team with a very shallow bullpen for a relief pitcher who’s never remotely sniffed 180 innings let 200 innings makes any sense at all. It’s absurd.

  20. Za

    I don’t think the Yankees allowed Joba enough opportunities to flourish, and I think he has the pure stuff to be at least a #4 starter. He also has a higher potential upside than Pelfrey, as his 2.98 FIP/3.34 xFIP for 2010 were very solid. He was hurt though by a low left-on-base percentage. The flipside is the Pelfrey has been pretty much the definition of average to slightly above average workhorse.

    If the Mets could get something more out of it, I would pull the trigger. Hell, I would trade Niese for Brett Gardner and Joba, if the Yankees would go for it. But I do think trading Pelfrey for Joba+1 solid prospect would be acceptable, and actually good for both sides.

  21. Mike

    Howard, it seems that you got a bit caught up in the spirit of the season. It’s true that on Tu B’Shvat we plant young trees in the hope that they will grow strong and flourish and possibly bear fruit, and that sometimes older, weaker trees and deadwood need to be cleared to make room for the new saplings. I’m just afraid that the seedling you suggest sowing may never develop into strong timber, and the tree being cleared has not yet produced its full yield of produce.

    So happy new year to the trees- here’s hoping that Sandy plants wisely and carefully.

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