But potential never oozed forth production, prompting the Cardinals to make a decision to cut ties with the former first-round selection. St. Louis traded Greene to the Astros on Thursday for a player to be named or cash considerations.
Greene was informed of the deal about an hour before the Cardinals began Thursday's game against San Francisco.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Greene said. "I came up with this organization, lived and breathed with these guys for a long time. It's sad in the sense that these guys are my friends and my family and we've all grown up together. I've been nothing but thankful and grateful to the organization for giving me the opportunity and to have faith in me and stay confident with me through the years.
"I'm also excited. I'm excited for a fresh start and a new opportunity."
A new opportunity is something everyone agreed Greene needed. Greene was given several chances to seize regular playing time but never performed consistently enough to prove that he deserved it. The number of starts Greene received dwindled as the season progressed.
And in his last one -- which came in Wednesday's 15-0 loss -- Greene heard home-crowd boos as he went 0-for-3 and committed an error. That was only the 16th start Greene had made since June 1.
"We just weren't finding him the appropriate playing time to give him a chance to contribute, probably to his liking as well as what we saw was unfolding with our club as well," general manager John Mozeliak said. "This was a good opportunity for him to play more. We'll see if we get any return on the deal, but ultimately we just felt it was time to make the move."
In 179 at-bats this season, Greene hit .218 with 15 extra-base hits, 19 RBIs and nine stolen bases. He struck out 56 times. That 2012 average is equivalent to Greene's overall mark in parts of four seasons with the Cardinals. He appeared in 227 games, but made only 128 starts.
"I'm excited to be down there and to contribute and to play," Greene said. "What's happened here in the past stays here. This is a new start for me with Houston. I'm excited about that."
Discussions between the Cardinals and Astros went on for a few days before the trade was completed. The Astros, led by general manager Jeff Luhnow, who was the Cardinals' scouting director when Greene was drafted, initiated discussions by claiming Greene off waivers.
Because of the timing of the move, the Cardinals played Thursday's series finale with just 24 players. Another player -- almost certainly someone who can play the middle infield -- will join the club in Philadelphia on Friday to take Greene's roster spot.
Greene is set to join the Astros in Houston on Thursday night.
"I think when you look at his tenure here, he brought excitement to the club," Mozeliak said. "He was very useful to us last year in that exciting run. Unfortunately, it didn't work out maybe the way we envisioned it or the way he had. This is a tough place to play. There are high expectations. Winning is demanded. Unfortunately, we were never able to get that right mix with him."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.