Brian Cashman has built some of the best bullpens in baseball during his time running the Yankees. It has been common place for the Yankees to have multiple relievers who could be referred to as pitchers who would be closing on a bunch of teams in baseball.
This past season, that depth took a hit due as injuries and inconsistent performances derailed some of the key pieces of the Yankees bullpen. There are several players with late inning experience on the free agent market this season, and Shane Greene is one name that could be on the Yankees radar as they look to build up their bullpen for 2021.
Originally drafted by the Yankees in 2009, Greene moved steadily though the system and made his major league debut for the team in 2014. In 15 games, including 14 starts, he posted a 3.78 ERA as part of an impressive rookie season. With the Yankees needing a new shortstop following that season, Greene was sent to Detroit in a three-team trade that brought Didi Gregorius to the Yankees.
Greene struggled as a starter for Detroit the next season and was eventually moved to the bullpen. He became Detroit’s closer in 2018 and went on to rack up 55 saves for them before being sent to Atlanta in the summer of 2019. Once in Atlanta, he was no longer asked to close, but still operated in a late inning role for the Braves as they won back-to-back NL East division crowns.
Lacking a high-velocity fastball, Green is not a prototypical bullpen pitcher in that he has a relatively low strikeout rate. This past season he posted just 6.8 K/9, which is the lowest mark for him since moving to the bullpen full-time in 2016. His strikeout percentage was in just the 24th percentile for major league pitchers last season.
What Greene does very well is limit hard contact, as he is above league average for both hard hit percentage and average exit velocity. In 28 games this past season he posted a 3.81 FIP and 0.3 fWAR. He was able to keep runners off the bases as well, with a 1.12 WHIP and a 42% ground ball rate.
Showing his roots as a starter, Greene still uses four pitches to attack hitters and keep them off balance. He throws his sinker 37% of the time, but then complements it with a healthy doses of cutters, sliders and changeups. He found success with all of the pitches allowing just two home runs in 27.2 innings last season.
The Yankees will play most, if not all, of next year without Tommy Kahnle after he went down in August following Tommy John surgery. While not the same strikeout pitcher that Kahnle is, Greene has experience in high leverage roles and a track record of success. FanGraphs’ estimation for Greene’s contract is just one year and five million dollars. That type of contract would not limit the Yankees in any way, and he would be a very good fit to replace Kahnle for a year.
Shane Greene is a viable bullpen option for the Yankees in 2021. The 32-year-old pitcher has been very effective the last few seasons while pitching for a contenting team. His projected deal should be within the length and cost that the Yankees can absorb. He is far from the only reliever on the market, but a solid option if the Yankees choose to go that way.