On Monday, the Toronto Blue Jays committed $21 million over two years to a reliever who's pitched just 28.1 innings over the last two seasons due to a UCL tear.
In 2023, that pitcher managed a 4.73 ERA in the 13.1 innings pitched for the Blue Jays across the regular season and playoffs. That seems like risky business at a glance, but Toronto looks to have made a wise investment in Chad Green.
What makes Green appealing — even on a multi-year option with an eight-figure annual salary — is his combination of impressive stuff and impeccable track record. When the Blue Jays first signed the 32-year-old prior to 2023 in the midst of his Tommy John surgery recovery, they knew they were getting someone who'd performed as an elite high-leverage reliever.
Between 2017 and 2021, Green produced 301.2 innings of 2.86 ERA ball, ranking sixth among all relievers in fWAR (7.0). Not only was he effective, he was also versatile, with the capacity to be used as a multi-inning weapon when necessary.
The proof of concept for the right-hander's ability to shut down opponents late in games was there, but it was unclear whether he'd immediately bounce back from his surgery and look like a legitimate bullpen ace again.
While the Blue Jays only got 40 outs from Green, it was enough for them to determine he was ready to pick up where he left off. He gave up seven earned runs in 12 regular-season innings, but those came from two surprising blow ups, and his xERA (2.84) and FIP (2.67) indicated he was on the right track.
More importantly, the quality of Green's repertoire was clearly intact. His average fastball velocity (95.5 mph) improved on his 2022 number (94.6 mph) and closely mirrored what he was featuring in 2020 and 2021. That heater generated a whiff rate of 37.7%, while his curveball had hitters reaching for air 35.0% of the time.
That one-two punch gave Green a whiff rate in the 94th percentile among all MLB pitchers, making it clear that his Tommy John experience hadn't robbed him of his stuff.
It's that swing-and-miss ability that the Blue Jays are making a significant investment in — one that runs in contrast to the limited financial resources the team has allocated to high-profile relievers in the past.
The best version of Green is an eraser who can come in for difficult situations, battling left-handed and right-handed hitters with equal ease, and give his club as many as six outs. That player is worth more than the $10.5 million per season Green will receive.
While there's no guarantee the veteran lives up to that standard, he showed enough in his first handful of innings as a Blue Jay to earn the team's faith. Based on the success he's had in the past — and the repertoire he's flashed most recently — it seems likely he'll be a difference maker for the club over the next two seasons.