Tigers get Greene from Yanks in three-way swap
Detroit sends lefty Ray, infielder Leyba to D-backs as part of deal
DETROIT -- The Tigers saw Shane Greene shut down their offense for 15 innings of two-run ball over two starts with the Yankees last August. Come Spring Training, they'll be seeing him in a Tigers uniform.
After acquiring Greene in a three-team trade Friday, they expect to see him for a while.
"We had four starters and we felt comfortable going with a young guy as the fifth. Now that young guy in the fifth becomes Shane Greene," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said on a conference call Friday afternoon.
After several days of Tigers pitching rumors heading toward next week's Winter Meetings, Detroit added a young starter instead of trading one, acquiring Greene in a three-team trade that sent left-hander Robbie Ray and infield prospect Domingo Leyba to Arizona.
The D-backs sent shortstop Didi Gregorius -- a prospect the Tigers had interest in acquiring a couple years ago -- to the Yankees. It's that last part of the deal that was key for the Tigers to get the arm they wanted.
The deal comes just a few days shy of the five-year anniversary of the three-team trade between the same squads that brought Max Scherzer, Austin Jackson and Phil Coke to Detroit, setting the stage for the Tigers' dynasty in the American League Central.
Their latest deal isn't likely to have nearly the same impact, at least in Detroit. Essentially, Detroit became the middle man in the deal, providing Arizona what they wanted in return for Gregorius.
In return, the Tigers changed their mix of young arms, subtracting Ray and adding Greene to the back end of their rotation. He's greener than Scherzer, but more experienced than Ray, Buck Farmer, Kyle Lobstein or any of the other candidates the Tigers had.
"Detroit got themselves a heckuva starter," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
Greene, who turned 26 last month, went 5-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 15 appearances (14 starts) with the Yankees this past season. Two of those wins came at Detroit's expense. He blanked the Tigers on five hits over eight innings Aug. 7 at Yankee Stadium, sending Detroit to a 1-0 loss despite a solid start from Rick Porcello.
Three weeks later, Greene took the mound at Comerica Park and tossed seven innings of two-run ball with a walk and eight strikeouts in an 8-4 Yankees win. Detroit hit into 19 ground-ball outs combined over the two outings.
Take away those two outings, and Greene gave up 31 earned runs on 71 hits over 63 2/3 innings, with 25 walks and 68 strikeouts. He also went 5-2 with a 4.61 ERA in 15 games for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His career Minor League numbers -- including a 29-43 record, 4.39 ERA and 609 hits over 562 1/3 innings -- haven't foretold big league success.
Yet his half-season in the big leagues and the repertoire he has thrown there -- notably a sinker he consistently spotted down in the strike zone -- encouraged some scouts.
"We had quite a few people actually see him," Dombrowski said. "We saw him ourselves, but in addition to that, we had Jeff Wetherby see him quite a bit, Scott Reid, Scott Bream, Jim Leyland. We had some of our guys who were doing advance scouting see him also. And we saw consistently above-average stuff.
"We look at him as a guy who's ready to step in and be a very solid Major League starter. We like him."
One scout who watched Greene at his best called him a power sinkerballer comparable in style to Porcello, without the same selection of secondary pitches that Porcello has built over the years.
Greene is 40 days older than Porcello, but has 14 Major League starts to his credit. Porcello, who turns 26 on Dec. 27, has spent six seasons in Detroit's rotation, and he is eligible for free agency next winter.
That last factor is worth considering when weighing the move. Greene has at least three years before becoming arbitration-eligible. Porcello and David Price are up for free agency next winter.
Though Dombrowski said he had checked in with Cashman about Greene at the start of the offseason, nothing gained traction until this week.
"Three days ago, we talked again," Dombrowski said. "He said, 'If you have any way to get Gregorius from Arizona, we would trade Greene for him.' So I made contact with Arizona at that point, and see if we could make anything that would work."
Dombrowski said he heard back Thursday from D-backs general manager Dave Stewart. From there, things moved quickly.
"He said they were looking for a young starting pitcher that could go into rotation or was close," Dombrowski said, "and I told him the guys who were going to battle [for the fifth spot in the rotation]."
That group included Ray, Farmer, Lobstein and Kyle Ryan.
"We've looked at a lot of different guys," Stewart told Arizona reporters. "I've said from the start that we'd like to get young, controllable pitching. From the day I said it, [Ray has] been one of the guys on my list."
Ray, too, was supposed to be a long-term piece for the Tigers when he arrived from the Nationals as part of the Doug Fister deal last December. Friday's trade shows just how awry those fortunes turned over the past year.
Ray tossed 11 1/3 innings of one-run ball over his first two Major League starts in May, filling in for injured Anibal Sanchez against the Astros and Twins. Hitters adjusted from there, from a seven-run outing against Texas on May 22 to 14 runs allowed over 11 1/3 innings in three August outings.
Ray's work at Triple-A Toledo followed a similar path. He posted a 1.53 ERA in six outings for the Mud Hens in April, earning him the call to the bigs, but suffered from inconsistent command after his return at the end of May. The same pitcher who gave up four runs over 19 2/3 innings in a three-start stretch at the end of June, also threw 86 pitches over 3 1/3 innings in a May 27 start, and 104 pitches over 4 2/3 innings on July 30.
For the season, Ray went 1-4 with an 8.16 ERA in nine games for Detroit, and 7-6 with a 4.22 ERA in 20 games for the Mud Hens. Still, he ranked second on MLB.com's season-ending list of the Tigers' top prospects.
Ray showed signs of regaining his high-strikeout lefty potential in the Arizona Fall League, tossing nine innings of one-run ball with 12 strikeouts in his first three outings before getting roughed up in his AFL finale just before his wedding.
"Our people saw him in the fall league and said he threw the ball well," Stewart said.
Arizona's new front office includes Mike Russell, a longtime Tigers scout who joined the D-backs as a special assistant in October. Russell's scouting responsibilities included the Nationals when the Tigers acquired Ray last year.
With Ray gone, lefty reliever Ian Krol is the only player still in the Tigers organization from the package Detroit received for Fister. Krol emerged as the Tigers' primary lefty reliever for two good months, but lost that form after a tired arm landed him on the disabled list in June. He ended the year in Toledo, finishing with 18 earned runs on 42 hits over 32 2/3 innings in his 45 appearances for Detroit.
Like Ray, Leyba was on display in the Arizona Fall League, a huge step up for an infielder who just turned 19 years old in September and signed out of the Dominican Republic just two years ago. The switch-hitter went 7-for-41 (.171) with an RBI, four walks and nine strikeouts in 13 games for Glendale, but showed defensive work beyond his age while alternating between second and short.
During the regular season, Leyba batted .323 (84-for-260) in 67 games between short-season Class A Connecticut and low Class A West Michigan.