Yesterday, that dastardly villain known as "HookSlide" posted a link to an article titled "Phil Coke 'most likely' done in Detroit; Joe Mantiply could be worth watching this spring" by MLive's Chris Iott.
And everyone lost their damn minds.
Ok, that's a bit of an overstatement. Our links post got one lonely comment, and Twitter seemed more interested in claiming that I actually compared Edinson Volquez to James Shields in this article. At least our Facebook comment section was lively with debate on the matter.
When discussing Coke's future, Iott referenced a quote from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski on Wednesday in order to come to the rational conclusion that Coke will probably be wearing another uniform in 2015.
General manager Dave Dombrowski almost always leaves his options open. He rarely shuts the door entirely on any possibility. But when asked by MLive on Wednesday whether the Tigers had ruled out bringing back Coke, Dombrowski responded with "most likely."
In other words, Coke is certainly not Plan A, probably isn't Plan B and likely isn't even Plan C.
With Coke's fate all but sealed, the Tigers fanbase quickly turned to another target: right-hander Joba Chamberlain.
@blessyouboys so is Joba officially not coming back??— Gretchen Esselstein (@imacarrie4) December 19, 2014
@blessyouboys Any news on Joba yet? It's been surprisingly quiet. Loving your off season work too— Matt Little (@m_a_t_t_l) December 18, 2014
Unfortunately, we don't have any inside information. If you are reading this and your name isn't Dave Dombrowski or Joba Chamberlain, you know as much as we do. Will Joba be back in 2015? We have no clue.
But should he be? It's a fair question. The Tigers' bullpen is still in disarray, and Chamberlain was quite good for most of 2014. He allowed a 2.63 ERA and 2.47 FIP in the first half, and had an ERA as low as 3.14 in mid-August. He struck out nearly a batter per inning throughout the season, and finished the year with a 2.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He locked down the eighth inning for the Tigers all season long, blowing just two leads in the eighth inning while compiling 29 holds.
However, Joba finished the season on a low note. He allowed a 4.97 ERA and 4.20 FIP in the second half, and retired just one of the six batters he faced in Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS. His fastball velocity dropped from 2013, an ominous sign from a 28 year old pitcher. He walked 24 batters in 63 innings during the regular season, including nine in just 19 1/3 innings after August 1st.
It seems like a lot of Joba's second half problems were fatigue-related. His fastball velocity dropped by a full mile per hour after the All-Star break, and his strikeout rate fell from 26.5 percent to just 17 percent. His walk rate rose slightly as well, resulting in a massive drop in his strikeout-to-walk ratio. By the time the postseason rolled around, it was clear that Joba was simply running on fumes. Given that 2014 marked his largest workload since the 2010 season -- including a huge uptick in high leverage innings -- it's difficult to blame him for wearing down.
The main roadblock preventing Joba from re-upping with the Tigers is likely cost. Chamberlain made $2.5 million last season, and would likely command a bit more after last season's performance. If Chamberlain's asking price is in the $3-4 million per year range -- and he could very well be looking for a multi-year deal at this point -- the Tigers may look elsewhere. The payroll situation has gotten even tighter after the team traded for Yoenis Cespedes and Alfredo Simon, and gambling on Chamberlain again probably isn't the best use of that money.
What do you think? Should the Tigers re-sign Joba Chamberlain for 2015?