Dodgers Trade Profile: Shane Greene, Relief Pitcher

Dodgers fans have known for months that the relief corps is in dire need of outside help. With trade season officially heating up, MLB writers and commentators are fanning the rumor mill, chiefly with Cleveland Indians closer Brad Hand. The possibility of striking a deal with Farhan Zaidi could yield Will Smith or even a Tony Watson reunion.

Hand, Smith or Watson would all be stellar acquisitions. Yet there’s something of a “sleeper” option who warrants just as much attention: Shane Greene. Our Tim Rogers also touched on Greene in his trade target series, which is very worth the read.

The Detroit Tigers closer is having an out-of-nowhere masterpiece of a season at the age of 30 that makes him a prime trade candidate.

OK, maybe Greene isn’t exactly a sleeper pick. His name has been mentioned often among the Dodgers faithful as a trade target. Compared to others, though, he is a bit more out of sight. Hand is on a team that might try to wring what’s left out of their contention window. Watson and Smith would make for a norm-shattering trade between arch rivals.

Greene, however, is simply a solitary bright spot for an awful team. The Tigers are in the middle of the worst kind of rebuild, one likely to go on for at least as long as they’re paying Miguel Cabrera’s albatross contract. They’re a team that has no choice but to sell whatever they can at the deadline.

After starting his career with the Yankees in 2014, Greene has sported the Olde English D every season since 2015. As the team stubbornly descended into rebuilding mode each season, Greene was commensurately terrible save for 2017. That year saw him go 4-3 with a 2.66 ERA. Every other year saw his ERA balloon well over 5.00.

In 2019, however, Greene has almost inexplicably become one of the best relievers in the entire game. Continuing the role of closer he assumed in 2018, he currently leads the AL in saves with 21. His ERA is 0.93, and his WHIP is just 0.862.

The key to Greene’s success is how he’s able to get both swings and misses and ground balls. The latter is especially crucial because he allowed a lot of line drives in 2018, and exit velocity and likewise measures off of him are above league average in 2019. The ground balls come from a killer sinker that dips so sharply that it’s often hit right into the dirt. The hard contact is also offset by his strikeout capability, with a career-high strikeout rate boosted by a lethal cutter. He also doesn’t walk a lot of batters. Whatever work he did to improve his arsenal, it is paying off royally.

There’s also a chance he might not be too expensive. As touched on earlier, Detroit is in the pits of rebuilding, and don’t have a lot of pieces to offer. Especially since Greene is working this magic at age 30, he seems like just the kind of player a bad team should move no matter what. At the very least, he won’t be as expensive as Hand, who is projected to be an “all-in” move for the Dodgers as he was when Cleveland acquired him in 2018.

The only downside I can think of is that he’s a righty, and I want to invest primarily in lefties. With Tony Cingrani gone for the year, Scott Alexander underwhelming again, Caleb Ferguson a question mark, and Urias’ role between the pen and rotation in flux after Rich Hill’s injury, southpaws are the reason for the season. That’s one of the reasons Hand is, and should be, priority #1.

If Detroit’s asking price is reasonable as I’d like to think it is, though, Greene seems like a can’t-miss as well. He can get batters out by both strikeout and ground out, and has previous experience outside the closer’s role. I say go for him.

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