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The Tigers should think twice before trading Shane Greene

The closer’s value is not at its peak and could limit the return.

Boston Red Sox v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Just above every player on the Detroit Tigers roster has been mentioned in rumors leading up to the trade deadline, but it may wind up being a quiet event in the Motor City. If general manager Al Avila does decide to take some action, the focus will be on two areas that always seem to be hot at the end of July: back-end starting pitchers and closers.

The Tigers have a couple starters in Mike Fiers and Francisco Liriano who fit this mold, but they also have Shane Greene, who has healthily returned from a quick trip to the disabled list to resume his closing duties. Almost any team could use a reliever like Greene, who could slot into any late-inning role and is under team control for two more seasons. Demand is one thing, though; willingness – and reason – to pay is something altogether different.

True regression

Greene was not quite elite in 2017, but he was very good. With a 2.66 ERA, 3.84 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP, he was among the best in Detroit and a top 50 reliever in baseball. These results were much better than his first three seasons in the majors, but those included injuries and a transition from the rotation to the bullpen.

This season has been decent, but also a step back. A 3.86 ERA, 4.04 FIP, and 1.24 WHIP is not an awful line, but it does not exactly shoot to the top of any leaderboards. Greene is averaging about the same number of strikeouts per nine innings and over two fewer walks per nine, but his batting average against has jumped by 40 percentage points despite reduced hard contact and line drive rates.

The bigger issue for Greene is his elevated home run numbers. He has already surrendered more homers in 42 innings this year than 67 innings last year, and his 15 percent home run to fly ball ratio is much higher than expected. Some of this could be due to assuming the closer role full time, but there is probably a luck aspect as well.

Regression to the mean could go a couple directions for Greene. Some might look at his 2018 and assume that 2017 was as good as it was going to get, seeing this season as a move back toward his previous numbers. But with better strikeout, walk, and contact numbers, it seems like 2017 is more realistic than 2018, and that this year’s iteration of Greene might not be his best representation.

Shane Greene 2017 vs 2018

Season SO/9 BB/9 HR/FB %
Season SO/9 BB/9 HR/FB %
2017 9.71 4.52 10.2
2018 9.64 2.36 14.9

Understanding the market

Given these factors, the next week may not be the best time for the Tigers to shop Greene. Contending teams are sure to inquire about him because of his raw ability, but the stat sheet may hurt Detroit in negotiations. Unless teams are willing to pay for the 2017 version of their closer, the Tigers should strongly hesitate in trading Greene now for a lesser price.

Waiting out the market could help the Tigers, especially if other relivers go for high prices. The Indians were willing to pay a lot for Brad Hand, but his numbers are better than Greene’s almost across the board. Likewise, there will almost certainly be a few more relievers swapped who own superior numbers. If the Tigers can ride this wave as well, then great, but if not, there should be no rush.

Greene has two more years left under contract, giving the Tigers two more trade deadlines to attempt to move him. There is always a risk of losing value, but there should be confidence in his ability to keep moving in the right direction. It would be fun to see Joe Jimenez as the closer next April, but it is in the organization’s best interest to hold onto Greene this week unless they can find a truly impressive return.