11:30 am: Los Angeles is indeed signing Greene to a major league contract, reports Fabian Ardaya of the Athletic (on Twitter).
11:12 am: The Dodgers are nearing agreement with free agent reliever Shane Greene on a major league contract, reports Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (Twitter link). The 32-year-old was released by the Braves over the weekend. Greene is represented by the Ballengee Group.
Despite quality work between 2019-20, Greene remained on the free agent market over the entirety of last offseason. That was a bit surprising but perhaps explainable by the difference in the right-hander’s run prevention numbers and peripherals. Greene pitched to an elite 2.39 ERA across 90 1/3 innings between those two seasons, but that came with a slightly below-average 23.5% strikeout rate. The disconnect is even more stark when looking at 2020 alone; his ERA was a still-great 2.60, but his strikeout percentage dipped to 19.3%. Teams clearly seemed reluctant to buy into Greene as a high-end late innings option despite his success keeping runs off the board.
The 2021 season has been a disaster no matter which metric one uses to evaluate pitcher performance. Signed to a big league deal by Atlanta in May, Greene was called up in early June after spending a few weeks in Triple-A to build up arm strength. He tossed seventeen innings for the Braves but was tagged for sixteen runs (an 8.47 ERA) on 22 hits, including five homers. Greene’s 20.5% strikeout rate and 10.8% walk percentage aren’t too different from last season’s marks, but he’s seen his groundball rate fall to a career-low 30.4% and served up far too much hard contact.
Clearly, the Dodgers feel his horrible 2021 numbers to date don’t reflect that Greene’s ability to be effective has disappeared. It’s a rather limited amount of time for a pitcher who had a multi-year track record of success before this season. Greene didn’t have a typical offseason ramp-up period because of his protracted stay in free agency. Perhaps most importantly, the velocity and spin on his sinker and cutter are nearly identical between 2020 and 2021. With his raw stuff still intact, Greene could be primed for a bounceback under a new coaching staff and environment in L.A.
There’s no financial risk for the Dodgers in taking that chance. The Braves will remain on the hook for the bulk of Greene’s prorated $1.5MM salary, with the Dodgers paying the veteran just the prorated league minimum for the stretch run (which will be subtracted from Atlanta’s payroll). The 32-year-old will hit the open market again at the end of the season.