The Yankees’ relief corps looked to be one of the real strengths of the team heading into the 2022 season. The unit racked up the third-most value of any bullpen in 2021 with Chad Green leading the way in innings pitched (as usual). The workhorse righty started the season out in typically solid fashion, but Tommy John surgery in late-May ended his campaign. Now, he’s a free agent staring at a year of rehab, and given the Yankees’ effectiveness at churning out high-leverage relievers, the right-hander may have thrown his final pitch in pinstripes.
2022 Statistics: 14 games, 15 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 4.15 xFIP, 9.6 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.3 fWAR
2023 Contract Status: Free agent
Through roughly the first two months of the season, Green was the Yankees’ third-best reliever behind the one-two mega-punch of Michael King and Clay Holmes. He was pitching arguably as well as his breakout season of 2017 — even through the strikeouts were down a tad and the run suppression wasn’t quite as elite, Green had allowed his lowest home run rate in five years. Then, he was forced from his outing on May 19th, confirmed to need TJS three days later, and just like that, his season was over.
Green certainly divides opinion around the Yankees fanbase. He’s shown a habit for meltdowns in huge spots (though perhaps no more so than any high-leverage reliever), giving up crooked numbers and costing his team the game. Because of those blow-up outings, people forget how good Green has been for the Yankees on the whole. Since his first full season in 2017, Green has been the eighth-most valuable reliever in baseball, ranking seventh in K-BB%, 19th in innings pitched, and 20th in FIP. Remember, this is a pitcher who was once acquired as part of a trade for reliever Justin Wilson.
I won’t argue that perhaps the frequency of those meltdowns ticked up over the last three seasons. Green is ostensibly a two-pitch pitcher, but in practice, the fastball is the only pitch he trusts. As one of the elite four-seamers in the league in terms of raw metrics and results, there’s no surprise that he throws it almost two-thirds of the time. However, losing two miles an hour off the pitch since 2019 along with the lack of a viable secondary pitch likely underpin Green’s sporadic blowups.
Hitters have that split-second extra to react when Green is throwing with diminished velocity. And though he’s toyed with a slider and a curveball, he’s never had a reliable breaking ball to keep hitters honest off the fastball — not to mention an alarming penchant for missing middle-middle in the rare instances he does throw a breaker. Still, the fact that he’s been one of the top relievers in baseball even with just one functional pitch speaks to the elite qualities of that fastball and his ability as a pitcher. So yes, he has a blowup every once in a while, but boy, it would’ve been nice to have him available for big spots in the playoffs rather than go to, say, Clarke Schmidt with the game on the line.
Because his season was ended so prematurely by injury, we felt we could only hand Green an Incomplete grade for 2022. Going down with TJS is always unfortunate, but it came at a particularly rotten time for Green. The Yankees leaned on him as the bell cow of the bullpen for all six years of team control, and right as he’s about to become a free agent in line for the first big payday of his career — one that he more than rightfully earned — his elbow goes out.
It’s not out of the question that the Yankees could bring back Green. TJS usually has a recovery timetable of 12-14 months, so the best-case scenario has Green available to pitch in the big leagues after the All-Star break next season. We’ve also seen teams offer backloaded two-year deals to injured relievers like Tommy Kahnle and Ken Giles in the past, where the player rehabs in the first year with the hope that he’s ready to go in year two. However, given the Yankees’ success in developing and refining high-leverage relievers, a reunion feels unlikely. It’s certainly not the way Green or the Yankees hoped his final season would go.