Hunter Greene and the Cincinnati Reds have reportedly agreed to a six-year, $53 million extension. Greene, Cincinnati’s 2023 Opening Day starter, is in his second MLB season, and his new contract covers all of his pre-arbitration/arbitration years plus two years of free agency.
Cincinnati Reds get rotation stability with Hunter Greene extension
Despite a postseason berth in 2020, the Reds’ roster had a significant turnover in the ensuing offseason as the team entered a rebuilding phase. Greene, the No. 2 pick of the 2017 MLB Draft, has long been a part of Cincinnati’s plans. His Major League arrival in 2022 was a significant step in helping the Reds take baby steps toward contention.
While the Reds’ 62-100 record in 2022 wasn’t impressive, getting Greene alongside rotation-mates Nick Lodolo and Graham Ashcraft in Cincinnati laid the groundwork to develop an October-caliber rotation. While each pitcher had his ups and downs in his rookie season, they each showed glimpses of potential.
Greene pitched 125.2 innings to a 4.44 ERA, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Greene tended to leave pitches in the heart of the zone, leading to him giving up 1.72 HR/9, the second most among starting pitchers (minimum 120 innings pitched).
However, when opposing hitters weren’t hitting the ball out of the yard, Greene was very difficult to make contact against. With a 100 mph fastball and a wipeout slider in his back pocket, Greene struck out 30.9% of the hitters he faced (91st percentile) and generated a 31.9 Whiff% (88th percentile).
According to Eno Sarris’ Stuff+ model, which looks only at the physical characteristics of a pitch and generally aims to capture the “nastiest” pitches in baseball, Greene was the third “nastiest” pitcher in baseball (minimum 120 innings pitched) as a rookie with a 129 Stuff+.
Ahead of Greene was fellow rookie Spencer Strider and Gerrit Cole, while Corbin Burnes and Shohei Ohtani directly trailed him. Good company.
Greene’s Location+, a count and pitch type-adjusted judge of a pitcher’s ability to put pitches in the right place from Sarris, was 100, meaning he was league average. While Greene had an uncanny ability to strike hitters out, he also had an uncanny ability to hand out free passes — his 9.0 BB% ranked in the 33rd percentile.
For any rookie that throws 100 mph with a devastating hook, it’s generally expected that there will be some control issues, but that they’ll be cleaned up as his career progresses. Although it’s a small sample across 17.0 innings, Greene’s BB% is down to 7.7% and his Location+ is up to 104 all while his K% (30.8%), Whiff% (29.4%) and Stuff+ (131) remain elite in 2023.
While Greene has an injury history undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2019 and going on the injured list with a right shoulder strain in 2022, the Reds have minimal risk paying Greene $8.83 million annually.
Greene, who has showcased the potential to be an All-Star annually, could very easily turn into one of the biggest bargains in Major League Baseball.
Additionally, Greene’s extension marks the start of a new era in Reds baseball. With the fifth-best farm system according to MLB.com and a contingent of young talent in the major leagues including Greene, Lodolo, Ashcraft, Alexis Diaz, Jonathan India, Spencer Steer and Tyler Stephenson, the Reds are on their way toward making it back to the postseason.