From the day a major-league pitcher gets promoted until the day he hits free agency, all he wants to do is establish himself, contribute to a winning team, and properly time his devastating injuries. After all, in the modern era of pitching, “staying healthy” is an impossible dream; balancing and weighing surgeries with offseasons and down years is the best a hurler can do, especially an overworked reliever.
For six full years, Yankees RHP Chad Green worked his way from swingman/afterthought during a lost 2016 season to multi-inning bullpen weapon in 2017 to back-end stalwart from 2018-2021, all the while somehow staying completely healthy.
Green, who turns 31 years old on Tuesday, will experience his first free agency cycle this offseason, and he’ll be doing so in a sling. Isn’t that the way it always goes?
Following the longest, most taxing season of his MLB career in 2021, during which he began to revert back to being a two-pitch pitcher out of likely exhaustion, Green’s elbow finally gave out this past Thursday during the middle innings against the Baltimore Orioles. Though he was initially placed on the 15-Day IL, Aaron Boone speculated that surgery could be coming, a proclamation that was made official on Sunday afternoon.
You either die the fireman or live long enough to see yourself become Twitter’s popular bullpen goat, and Green’s 2021 season featured a sterling 0.88 WHIP, 3.12 ERA, 83.2 innings of coverage … and 14 home runs surrendered, most of them by nature in late-and-extremely-close scenarios.
Already unlikely to stay with the Yankees beyond 2022 due to his age, Green — who’s been a valued and essential contributor for so long — will now hit the open market unlikely to pitch in 2023, and with a worse reputation in the Bronx than he deserves. After all, his struggles came in large part due to how available he was, a strength that has now returned to bite him right when he was on the verge of increasing his earning power.
Yankees reliever Chad Green is exactly why MLB players fought for payment increases during lockout
At best, Green will now sign a two-year, Tommy Kahnle-esque pillow contract, featuring discounted payment in 2023. Ironically, his surgery now increases his chances of returning to the Yankees; they were never going to pay $10-12 million AAV, but might consider spreading that cash over two years.
Green has proven enough during his MLB tenure that he’ll get paid by someone, but he’s going to come below market rate and have to attempt an arduous mid-career rehab to even get back on the mound. Add in the slippage we already saw during a burnt-out 2021, and the slippage yet to come considering how much of Green’s success relies on his magic fastball (which’ll lose a few more ticks moving forward), and you have a perfect storm of wage suppression en route.
Please don’t allow your unpleasantly memed memories of Green from 2021 fully detract from just how special he was at the outset — especially in 2017, when he helped save the Wild Card Game and so many other tight Yankees wins.
How will the Yankees replace Green? In the short-term, they’ll need Jonathan Loaisiga to take his ERA back under 7.00 and hope Miguel Castro can get on another heater. In the long-term, maybe another one of their upper-level starting pitchers makes a Michael King-like leap? After all, that’s how Green got here in the first place.
Hopefully, it’s also how he’s remembered in the Bronx.