Tigers sign Joba Chamberlain to 1-year, $2.5 million contract

Mike Stobe

Detroit adds a cheap arm to the bullpen as the Winter Meetings come to a close.

The Detroit Tigers have signed free-agent reliever Joba Chamberlain to a one-year contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Chamberlain will make a base salary of $2.5 million in 2014 but can potentially earn north of that with performance bonuses, per ESPN's Buster Olney.

Chamberlain, 28, emerged on the scene in the Bronx to a relentless amount of hype back in 2007 -- see: Joba Rules -- but has faded into the crowd over the last several years because of injuries and mediocre performance. Major ankle and elbow (Tommy John) surgeries have limited the hefty right-hander to just 91⅓ innings over the last three years, in which he's posted a 4.14 ERA and walked almost four batters per nine.

Chamberlain and fellow former Yankee Phil Hughes were supposed to inject new life into New York's pitching staff when they debuted alongside each other seven years ago, but it never came to be. In the end, despite all the care taken to limit Chamberlain's workload in his first two years in the Bronx, he got just one full season in the club's rotation -- a 4.75 ERA over 31 starts in 2009 -- before being relegated to full-time reliever duty.

The Nebraska native no longer lives in the high 90s with his four-seam like he did when he first came up, but he still averages about 95 miles per hour and complements it with a mean slider. Chamberlain struggled to keep the ball in the park the last two years, surrendering 11 long ball in just over 60 innings, but should be able to curb that some by moving to the more neutral Comerica Park.

For the Tigers, Chamberlain is a relatively low-cost addition to a bullpen they've been trying to bolster for much of the offseason; they've also signed Joe Nathan to take over as closer and added youngster Ian Krol as a lefty specialist -- allowing Drew Smyly to shift into the rotation. Those additions, along with a full season of Bruce Rondon in the setup role, should help the relief corps make a run at improving on a 4.01 ERA that was 24th in baseball in 2013.

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