Chicago Cubs should take a flyer on Chad Green for 2023 and beyond

New York Yankees v Chicago White Sox
New York Yankees v Chicago White Sox / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

One of the things left on our wishlist for the Chicago Cubs to get done before the 2023 season is to bolster the bullpen. Already, they added one solid piece in veteran Brad Broxberger along with a minor league deal for Roenis Elías and others, but an extra veteran couldn't hurt. While it'd be nice to add another strong southpaw to keep things in check alongside Brandon Hughes, there's been one right-hander on my mind for a while as a solid fit for the Cubs - Chad Green.

Green has spent the last seven years in Yankees pinstripes as a stalwart set-up man to closer Aroldis Chapman. He holds a solid career 3.17 ERA and 1.022 WHIP and offers a solid repertoire buoyed by a mid-90s fastball. In his last healthy season in 2021, his four-seamer ranked among the best in baseball in terms of spin by Statcast's measure and it contributed to his stellar 31.4 percent strikeout rate. He's coupled his stellar strikeout proficiency with an elite ability to limit walks, recording a 6.4 percent walk rate for his career which comes in a full two points below the league average. Put together, his skills have been enough to overcome a not-so-great hard-hit rate to make him one of the most durable and quietly brilliant pitchers in the sport for years.

The knock with Green, of course, is that he's coming off Tommy John surgery. He had the surgery early enough that he should pitch in 2023 barring any setbacks, but it makes him a bit of a gamble. Not having him with the Cubs right off the rip isn't ideal and even when he eventually comes back, there's no guarantee he'll be right back to elite form. His few innings of work in 2022, while excellent, also saw his velocity dip by nearly a full mile per hour on his four-seamer and two on his sinker. It may have been injury-related, but it's enough to draw some concern. In order to actually land him, Chicago would almost certainly need to commit two years in order to get any value out of it considering he'll still spend a not-insignificant time on the shelf.

Investing in Chad Green now could reward the Cubs down the line

Still, the upside seems worth the bet. The Cubs have tried similar deals with a rehabbing Drew Smiley and Kendall Graveman, though neither got a shot on those contracts in Cubs uniforms. Green, however, would at least contribute in 2023 and, if he's good, the deal could pay off in spades. If the Cubs are in the middle of a playoff push, Green could give a second wind to the bullpen in its most critical stretch of games. Even if 2023 is a wash, a deal now would lock down a bullpen spot for 2024 when the Cubs are even more likely to be competitive.

Moreover, the enticing nature of the Cubs' pitch lab plus the improvements to the team on the North Side might be enough to convince him that Chicago is the place to be. Green is far from the relievers in need of a rework that Craig Kimbrel, Andrew Chafin, David Robertson, and more were, but the Cubs could, in theory, help him adjust to post-Tommy John playing days, especially if his velocity remains down after surgery.

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The price tag to take a shot on a guy like Green post-surgery shouldn't be particularly high either. A good comp could be Tommy Kahnle's two-year, $4.75 million pact with the Dodgers in 2020 following his injury. Green will probably command a bit higher, especially in this market, but it feels like the perfect move to give the Cubs a bit of longer-term bullpen help from one of the game's more reliable arms over the past several years.