Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bucs Lock Up Morton

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that the Bucs signed RHP Charlie Morton through 2016 with an option for a fourth season.

His deal will be for $4M this year, $8M in 2015 and $8M in 2016 with a club option for 2017 worth $9.5M and a $1M buyout. (If Morton is traded, the club option turns into a mutual option.) So the Bucs gave him roughly street value ($3.9M) for his last arbitration year and tied him up for two FA seasons with an option for another. Good move; with Francisco Liriano and Wandy Rodriguez in their walk years in 2015, Ground Chuck will be around with Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon and company to ease the transition.

Morton, 30, is 30-49 with a 4.70 ERA in parts of six seasons with the Braves and the Pirates. Pittsburgh acquired Morton, OF Gorkys Hernandez and LHP Jeff Locke from Atlanta in 2009 for OF Nate McLouth.

After showing flashes in 2009, Morton was ready to challenge for a rotation spot and broke camp with the team. But 2010 was the infamous year when he spent time with a sports psychologist after going on the DL following a horrid 1–9/9.35 ERA start. He rebounded surprisingly well, pitching out of AAA Indy with his new Roy Halladay motion, and had his coming of age season the next campaign.

2011was Morton's most productive year. Charlie went 10–10 and 171-2/3 innings in 29 starts with a 3.83 ERA, and he was named the club's "Breakout Player of the Year". He had off-season hip surgery, then in 2012 went under the knife again for TJ surgery after working just 50 IP.

Morton came back in June of this season and posted a 7-4 record with a 3.26 ERA through 116 innings with a 62.9 percent ground ball rate (it's 54.8% career). More importantly, his control stayed sharp (2.8 BB/nine) and he picked up his K rate, thanks to an improving curve.

The main risk is of Charlie's body breaking down again. If Morton can keep himself in one piece and give the Pirates 175 IP from the back of the rotation, he'll be a bargain. Oddly, for his age, he still may have some upside in a "return to the future" kind of way way..

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