Poor Chad Green.
Last May, he was working on yet another strong season in the Yankees bullpen as free agency loomed. He was in line for a nice contract and, if he went elsewhere, perhaps the chance to be someone’s closer or perhaps a primary setup man.
But then Green hurt his valuable right elbow in May. He eventually underwent UCL reconstruction and flexor repair surgery on June 1. He could be back in the major leagues sometime late next summer or miss the entire season, depending on how his recovery and rehab go.
So where does that leave his free agency? Green, who had a 3.00 ERA in 14 relief appearances before getting hurt, would doubtless have been a widely sought-after bullpen target without the injury. While there’s a little more uncertainty now, he could still be a candidate to be signed to a two-year deal by a team that will guide him through the rehab process and then have a full season of Green in their pen in 2024.
Should the Yankees be that team? Maybe. Let’s take a look:
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE SENSE TO LET GREEN GO
With any injury, there’s unpredictability and even though Tommy John surgery has become more commonplace over the years, nothing is automatic. Some recoveries can take up to 18 months. Any interested team, obviously, would have to monitor him closely.
Green, who will turn 32 in May, got hurt the year after appearing in a career-high 67 games and throwing a career-high 83.2 innings.
Pitching-wise, Green has had a solid career and at times been spectacular. But he’s also had trouble with the home run ball. Overall, he’s allowed 1.29 homers per nine innings in the regular season and 1.38 per nine in 26 postseason innings. As a loose comparison, the MLB average HR/9 in 2022 was 1.1. In Green’s two most homer-happy seasons, he allowed 1.8 HR/9 in 2020 and 1.5 HR/9 in 2021.
His homer rate at Yankee Stadium is higher than on the road (1.38 HR/9 versus 1.21 HR/9), but that’s no surprise, given the slugger-friendly environment in the Bronx.
WHY IT MIGHT MAKE SENSE TO KEEP GREEN
Pre-injury, Green was a relief workhorse who could go multiple innings, serve as an opener or attack a high-leverage snarl in the late innings. He’s good at striking hitters out and not walking them. Sounds like a useful guy, no? His 2017 was ridiculously good – 1.83 ERA, 69 innings, 34 hits (!), 103 strikeouts and 17 walks and then he threw 6.1 scoreless innings against Houston in the ALCS.
Green’s 2018 was a nifty followup (2.50 ERA, career best 6.27 K/BB ratio). In the three full seasons since, his ERAs were 4.17, 3.51 and 3.12.
His career K/9 is 11.6 and he’s allowed 6.9 hits per nine innings since breaking into the majors in 2016. Green has had a WHIP under 1.00 in three different seasons, including the shortened 2020 pandemic year. He’s got a mid-90s fastball with good spin and in his last full season, 2021, opponents batted just .184 against the pitch.
The Yankees have a host of bullpen arms under control going into 2023, including Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, Jonathan Loáisiga, Ron Marinaccio and Michael King, who would be returning from a fractured elbow. Green wouldn’t be a move for 2023, per se, but one with an eye toward 2024.
So if the Yankees could give him a back-loaded, two-year deal with a chance to earn more through heavy incentives in the second year, when he’s further removed from the surgery and fully healthy, keeping Green might be worth it. He could rehab under the guidance of the Yankees medical staff – they know him best, anyway.
As the Yankees were reminded this past season, it takes a lot of relievers to get a bullpen through an entire season. Depth is always important and if Green can rehab his way back to regular form, he could be a vital part of the bullpen in 2024.