The Braves are in agreement on a contract with free agent reliever Shane Greene, confirms MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). Talkin’ Jake of Jomboy Media was first to report the deal (via Twitter). It’s a one-year contract worth $1.5MM, which will wind up prorated in the $1.1MM – $1.2MM range given the amount of time in the season that has already passed, reports Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic (via Twitter). Greene will begin with Triple-A Gwinnett to build back up into game shape, per Rosenthal.
Greene will return to the team with which he’d spent the past year-plus. Atlanta acquired the veteran righty from the Tigers at the July 31 trade deadline in 2019, and he spent the next couple seasons in manager Brian Sntiker’s bullpen. Greene has logged 52 1/3 innings of 3.27 ERA/3.87 FIP ball since the deal, cementing himself as one of the team’s more reliable relievers.
The 32-year-old reached free agency at the end of last season, but his market moved incredibly slowly. He was linked to the Twins before Minnesota signed Alex Colomé, but there were no other clubs specifically tied to Greene in recent months. That lack of reported interest was a bit puzzling, considering Greene has been something of a bullpen workhorse over the years. After moving to relief in 2016, the former Yankee and Tiger eclipsed 60 innings in each season through 2019. Last year’s shortened campaign obviously brought an end to that streak, but Greene still appeared in 28 of Atlanta’s 60 contests.
Generally, Greene has paired that durability with quality production. He’s managed an ERA of 2.66 or lower in three of the past four years, with a 5.12 mark in 2018 standing as the exception. While he’s typically been adept at keeping runs off the board, Greene hasn’t racked up the gaudy strikeout totals of most high-end relievers. That was particularly true last season, when he punched out just 19.3% of opposing hitters, a far cry from the 24.1% league average for bullpen arms (and down from the 23-25% range in which he landed each of the four seasons before). Greene’s 7.5% swinging strike rate and 4.51 SIERA in 2020 were likewise below-average.
That discrepancy between Greene’s strong bottom line results and his downturn in whiffs could help explain why it took until May for he and a team to find a mutually agreeable term. It’s not especially surprising he’ll return to a place with which he’s obviously quite familiar and where he’s had plenty of success.
The Braves’ bullpen hasn’t been especially productive to this point in the season. Atlanta relievers currently sit 22nd in ERA (4.56), 19th in strikeout minus walk rate (12.9 percentage points) and 21st in SIERA (4.09). A.J. Minter, Will Smith and Tyler Matzek have each pitched fairly well, but Josh Tomlin, Grant Dayton, Jacob Webb and Sean Newcomb are off to tougher starts. Luke Jackson has a shiny 1.50 ERA but less inspiring peripherals.
Even with Greene re-signed and Chris Martin soon to return from the injured list, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Atlanta bolster the relief unit at the trade deadline. Despite an underwhelming 16-17 start, the Braves remain right in the thick of the National League East race. Even after factoring in Greene’s salary, Atlanta’s payroll commitments check in just shy of $133MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That’s about $25MM south of the mark the Braves were slated to spend last season (prior to prorating), so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Liberty Media ownership group gives GM Alex Anthopoulos and company some leeway to make further midseason additions.