Pitcher Chad Green of the New York Yankees will report to camp as a starter per general manager Brian Cashman, with the bullpen being the fallback option. While there may be no harm in putting Green back in the role he had been in up until this past season, there is absolutely no reason to even fiddle with the idea.
Green exploded onto the scene in 2017 after emerging out of Spring Training in Triple-A, battling lefty Jordan Montgomery for the fifth rotation spot. Ultimately, Montgomery earned the distinction, but Green came up in the bullpen and became one of the best relievers in the game. He posted an absurd 13.4 K/9 and 40.7 K% (league averages were 8.3 and 20%, respectively) while showing great command with a 2.2 BB/9 and 6.7 BB% (league averages were 3.3 and 9%). He finished the year with a 1.38 ERA and 0.739 WHIP. Recently, MLB Network’s infamous “Shredder,” which looks at players from a purely statistical standpoint, rated Green the fourth-best reliever in all of baseball.
Yet it appears as if Montgomery will have to earn his spot back, even after posting a very solid 3.88 ERA in his rookie campaign. In addition to Green, Adam Warren will be given a chance to show his ability as a starter, but again, this does not appear to be necessary.
Of course, it would be nice to have some insurance behind Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, CC Sabathia, and Montgomery, but top prospects Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield are knocking on the door for that very position. Furthermore, Luis Cessa is still an option.
Some may point to Luis Severino as an example of a starter who thrived as a reliever before coming back as one of the top starters in the game. However, that situation is completely different: Severino was viewed as a top prospect coming up, and he was projected to be a front-of-the-line starter. Green, on the other hand, was more of a back-end-of-the-rotation pitcher, and so even if he was able to successfully become a starter again, his ceiling would likely be a number four or five starter. The Yankees have plenty of those that could factor into their plans in 2018, namely Montgomery, Adams, Sheffield, and Cessa.
Green became a top player at his position in 2017, and there’s no reason to even toy with the idea of him transferring back to being a starter when he can continue to be part of likely the best bullpen in baseball. Would you rather have a number five starter who will give you five innings every five days, or a dynamic relief pitcher who could give you multiple shutdown innings a few times a week? The answer is clear: Green should remain a reliever.