Braves: The case for signing Shane Greene

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Today we continue our series making the case to bring back each of the 17 Braves set to hit the free-agent market this offseason. This time, we’re looking at 31-year-old right-handed reliever Shane Greene.

Part of GM Alex Anthopoulos’ bullpen upgrade back on deadline day in 2019, Greene was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for two prospects — left-handed pitcher Joey Wentz and outfielder Travis Demeritte. At the time, the trade package seemed a bit heavy from the Braves side. Wentz ranked just outside the top-ten (11th) on the organization’s prospect list (via FanGraphs). Also, Demeritte, at times, flashed plenty of potential at the plate in the high minors. However, inconsistency plagued both young players and Atlanta needed some reliever help at the major-league level.

Greene certainly seemed like a viable solution to the Braves bullpen problems. His first-half of the ’19 campaign in Detroit was absolutely dominant. The All-Star pitched to a stingy 1.18 ERA while picking up 22 saves in his first 38 appearances before coming over to Atlanta.

Once with the Braves, Greene’s effectiveness wavered some. Even still, he performed well enough to finish the year as a 2-WAR player that primarily worked as a set-up guy down the stretch. Overall, Greene finished ’19 with a 2.30 ERA, 9.2 K/9, and 2.4 BB/9. In the middle of his prime at age 31, the Braves were looking forward to a full year of Greene coming out of the ‘pen in 2020.

This past season started about as good you could imagine for Greene. He flew through his first 10.1 innings in scoreless fashion, allowing just a .097 AVG from opposing batters. Manager Brian Snitker counted on Greene plenty, using him ten times in the Braves first 23 games, primarily in the seventh and eighth innings. It wasn’t until September 19 versus the Mets that Greene had his first (and only) clunker when he allowed four runs on five hits in a third of an inning. Other than that 21-pitch effort in New York, the righty was a consistent weapon all year long.

A 1-WAR, 2.60 ERA regular season in 2020 was followed by a strong postseason for Greene. During just his second trip to the playoffs, he made six appearances for the Braves, compiling a 1.50 ERA over six innings of work.

The case for bringing back Greene seems simple on paper. Although, the news on Thursday that the Braves decided NOT to pick up teammate Darren O’Day’s $3.5-million option shows the team very well may ease back on spending this winter. In a perfect world, and one that doesn’t seem too financially far fetched given the team’s contention window, the 2021 season would feature essentially every piece of this past season’s bullpen. It’s still anyone’s guess in terms of exactly who the team will retain. 

A $100-million-plus extension for Freddie Freeman could be in store this winter. Also, the annual need for another frontline starting pitcher could prevent the Braves from re-signing the higher-priced arms from the current relief core like Mark Melancon (who was set to make $14 million in ’20) and Greene ($6.250 million last season). However, we witnessed first-hand just how important a strong bullpen can be. Atlanta’s relievers oftentimes carried a starting rotation that barely had a pulse in 2020.

With O’Day officially gone, I believe it’s paramount the Braves hold tight to that trio of arms from 2019’s deadline (Greene, Melancon and Chris Martin). Not only did those three arms cost top-tier prospects to acquire, but they’ve also been the foundation of one of the game’s best bullpens. Let’s hope Anthopoulos keeps the group together for at least one more season. To do that, bringing back Shane Greene is required.

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