Tag: Charlie Morton

Charlie Morton to Astros: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

After missing most of the 2016 season due to injury, veteran starting pitcher Charlie Morton signed a two-year, $14 million free-agent deal with the Houston Astros on Wednesday. 

The Astros announced the signing, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports revealed the terms.

After Morton spent seven years in the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2016 campaign.

He made four starts for the Phillies and went 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, but a torn hamstring suffered in April cost him the remainder of the year.

Morton and the Phillies had a mutual option of $9.5 million for 2017, but Philadelphia declined and instead bought him out for $1 million, per the Associated Press (h/t FoxSports.com).

That made Morton a free agent and a highly attractive option for teams in search of a quality arm at a bargain price.

Morton’s career numbers are modest at 46-71 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in nine seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Pirates and Phillies, but he is just a few seasons removed from some of the best performances of his career.

The 33-year-old righty’s 2013 and 2014 seasons in Pittsburgh yielded the most favorable results of his time in the big leagues, as he went 13-16 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 46 starts over the course of those campaigns.

He dropped off in 2015, finishing 9-9 with a 4.81 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, but the up-and-down nature of Morton’s career suggests he could right the ship at any time.

Morton isn’t particularly dynamic and has a career strikeout rate of just 6.3 per nine innings, but he excels at keeping the ball down and in the ballpark with a career ground-ball rate of 55.4 percent, according to FanGraphs.com.

The 2002 third-round pick of the Braves is a good fit for a team with strong defense, so there will be added emphasis on the Astros to support him in that regard.

Morton is far from an ace and is best deployed as a bottom-of-the-rotation arm, but he can be valuable if he proves healthy and is able to eat some innings.

The hamstring injury creates some question marks regarding Morton entering 2017, but it likely brought down his cost as well, which makes him a potential bargain for the upcoming season.

Houston has a strong staff that includes the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers, which puts little pressure on Morton and should allow him to add quality depth to the rotation.


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Charlie Morton’s Contract Option Declined by Phillies: Latest Comments, Reaction

The Philadelphia Phillies announced Thursday that they have declined to pick up the mutual option on pitcher Charlie Morton

Morton was set to earn a $9.5 million salary in 2017, but the Phillies instead exercised a $1 million buyout, per SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo

Morton, 32, made just four starts in 2016, finishing 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 19 strikeouts in 17.1 innings pitched. He missed the majority of the season after tearing his hamstring in April. 

A major reason for the buyout was likely because it wouldn’t have been guaranteed that Morton would have made the starting rotation given the team’s bevy of young starters and prospects. Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola and Vince Velasquez are locks to earn spots on the rotation, while Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson, Alec Asher and perhaps even Mark Appel will compete for spots in the rotation.

In other words, Morton would have needed to have a very strong spring to earn a spot in the rotation this season. Given that Morton has pitched 150 or more innings just three times in his career and has dipped below a 3.70 ERA just once, the Phillies weren’t willing to bet on his justifying a $9.5 million contract on the mound.


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Charlie Morton to Phillies: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

The Philadelphia Phillies addressed their starting rotation Saturday by acquiring pitcher Charlie Morton in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Phils announced that minor league pitcher David Whitehead was sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for the 32-year-old veteran.

Morton went 9-9 with a 4.81 ERA last season with the Bucs, and he owns a career record of 45-70 to go along with a 4.54 ERA.

The eight-year veteran spent the past seven seasons with the Pirates after playing for the Atlanta Braves in 2008. He posted a sub-4.00 ERA in 2011, 2013 and 2014, with his best season coming in 2013, as he went 7-4 with a 3.26 ERA.

Philadelphia ranked 29th in Major League Baseball with a 4.69 team ERA last season, so it is banking on Morton regaining the form he displayed prior to the 2015 campaign.

As pointed out by Jon Johnson of 94 WIP, Morton also gives the Phillies some ammunition at the trade deadline:

Pittsburgh already has a dominant one-two punch at the top of its rotation with Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano. It also recently acquired Jon Niese from the New York Mets in a trade involving second baseman Neil Walker, per ESPN’s Adam Rubin.

Morton is slated to make $8 million in 2016 before a club option kicks in for the 2017 season, according to Spotrac.

Since his production didn’t live up to his salary in 2015, shipping him to Philly certainly makes sense for the Pirates, as it will allow them to pursue a cheaper alternative and perhaps even another bat.

From the Phillies’ perspective, acquiring Morton isn’t a move that will put them over the top, but it could at least add some respectability for a team that is seemingly in for another tough season.


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Charlie Morton’s Last Stand: Pittsburgh Pirates Shuffle Rotation

The Pittsburgh Pirates will do some tinkering to the starting rotation this week.  Jeff Karstens is being shelved for the time being with a tired arm.  Daniel McCutchen will assume Karstens spot in the rotation tonight against the Cardinals.

They will also need a starter for Sunday, as Ross Ohlendorf won’t be taking his scheduled start.  The guy to keep an eye on is Charlie Morton.  Morton needs this opportunity.  Pirates fans need it as well.

Morton deserves at least a five-start look at the end of the season.  The Pirates have to find out which guy they have.  Is it the Charlie Morton that showed towards the end of 2009 that he can be a capable major league pitcher?  Or, do they have the Charlie Morton that simply couldn’t get major league hitters out consistently in 2010?

The Pirates should believe in Morton still.  He has all the tools.  He has a great arm with a fastball that can top 95 mph and can back that up with above average breaking stuff. 

I vowed to never use the term “great stuff,” after hearing it over a thousand times this year during Pirates telecasts, but Morton has it.

Morton has to show better command this time around.  He has to locate better or he will get crushed.  He has to pitch off his fastball more.  It’s a weapon and he needs to use it to get people out.

He also has to be much tougher mentally as well.  He’s too talented to fold and start giving into hitters.  The scouting reports on Morton, dating back to his days in the Atlanta system, have always questioned his head.  With the “stuff” a guy like Morton has, he has to have a bulldog-like mentality.

Throwing to Chris Snyder instead of Ryan Doumit should help out as well.  In his short time in Pittsburgh, Snyder has shown that he will call the game to the pitchers strengths instead of working to their weaknesses, which Doumit is very fond of doing.

Morton is a much better pitcher than his 1-9 record and 9.35 ERA indicate.  If the opportunity is given to him, he must take advantage of it.

This could be a second chance served up to him on a silver platter.  He must approach it with that attitude or risk not being part of a future Pittsburgh Pirates rotation.  He needs to succeed.  The Pirates need him to succeed.  The fans need him to succeed.

This could be Charlie Morton’s last stand as a Pittsburgh Pirate.  He needs to come out fighting.

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Can We Now Stop Complaining About The Nate McLouth Trade?

For those that haven’t been paying much attention, your once favorite player Nate McLouth was sent down to the minors by the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.  Can we please now quit complaining about the trade?

After being dealt away from Pittsburgh, McLouth just wasn’t very good for Atlanta, especially this year where he was hitting .168 on the season.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  Being the best player on a bad team makes you nothing more than that. 

It doesn’t make you are great or a superstar.  It certainly doesn’t make you anything special, yet most casual fans are still upset over the deal.  There are fifty Nate McLouth type players in the big leagues right now.

Granted, he was the best player on the 2008 Pirates team.  He was an all-star and won a gold glove, but his numbers were nothing more than above average.  He hit .276 that season with 26 homers and 94 RBI’s.  Solid numbers, but nothing that would make him untouchable.

As for the trade, in which the Pirates received Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernadez and Jeff Locke.  I liked it then and feel it can still work out well for the Pirates.  If Neil Huntington could go back and do it over, I’m sure he wouldn’t pass on the deal. 

Not to mention that dealing McLouth opened up a spot for Andrew McCutchen to be promoted.

Yes, Morton has been terrible this season, but he showed at the end of last season that he has the ability to pitch at this level.  Hopefully he can figure things out in the minors and become a solid middle of the rotation guy for the Pirates for a few years.

Hernandez still has a ton of upside.  While it likely won’t be with the Pirates, he still has value and can be used a valuable trade chip.

Locke was the biggest return in the trade and it’s still to be determined on how that will work out, but he’s having an outstanding minor league season.  Between stops in Bradenton and Altoona, the lefty starter is 10-3 with a 3.22 era this season.

The McLouth trade still has a chance to work out pretty well for the Pirates.  Now if everyone can just let it go and realize that the Pirates really didn’t give up much.

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Paging Brad Lincoln: Charlie Morton May Be Sent Down by Pittsburgh Pirates

Charlie Morton has not been exactly what you would call a “good pitcher” for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season.

In fact, Morton has been something you would call a “horrible pitcher that deserves to be sent to the minors” this season.

Morton, 26, was expected to become one of the Pirates’ better pitchers this season after they acquired him in the Nate McLouth trade.

He has been the polar opposite.

Morton is 1-9 with a 9.35 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP. 

The numbers are horrible, far from what was expected of the hard-throwing righty.

Morton’s best pitch (yes, he actually does have a good pitch) is his fastball. His heater usually ranges from 93 to 95 mph—not bad for a starter. His curve isn’t half bad, and he also has a decent change-up.

Morton has stuff. The problem is, he doesn’t know how to use it. Sometimes he fails to be aggressive with his above-average fastball. Other times he is too aggressive and walks a lot of batters.

And sometimes, Morton just can’t avoid the big inning. That was the case last night, as the Pirates lost 8-2 to the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds scored seven of their eight runs in the first and second innings. Morton was pulled after the second.

Morton was making progress, inch by inch. His latest start set him back 10 yards. 

As of right now, Pirates manager John Russell is keeping Morton in the starting rotation.

But Brad Lincoln is knocking on Morton’s door, and he seems to be the favorable option for Pirate fans right now.

Former first-round pick Lincoln, 25, is currently having a decent season with Triple-A Indianapolis. Lincoln is 5-2 with a 3.77 ERA and is scheduled to start tonight for the Indians against the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate.

Morton will hold on to his starting spot for a while, but if performances like last night’s continue, expect Lincoln to be starting for the Pirates soon.

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Charlie Morton vs. Ted Lilly: Pirates-Cubs Rematch in Pittsburgh

Expert handicapper ESPN rates the Chicago Cubs a 2-1 favorite over the Pirates in PNC Park tonight.

But the Pirates’ Charlie Morton can beat the Cubs’ Ted Lilly. Because Morton already has. Last year, in Chicago.

It won’t be easy, of course. Recent history suggests that Lilly will go about six innings against the Pirates, giving up about three runs, more likely than not for a quality start.

Basically, the Pirates figure to score against him, but not run up the total. He is aged 34, which is to say that he figures to decline with each passing year.

The wild card, of course, is Morton, who is at the beginning of his career. He is capable of pitching from one to nine innings, giving up from 0 to 10 runs. At least against the Cubs, because he has done both. (The run total has been inversely related to his tenure.)

Don’t talk about averages with this guy, because he doesn’t fall into the usual probability distributions. A “mediocre” performance, something like four runs in five innings that used to be the staple of Zach Duke, is not typical of Morton. Against Lilly, that might represent a “garden variety” loss.

But Morton is on an improving trend lately. Lilly, on a decline. At some point, the paths may cross in the Pirates’ favor. Hopefully, that point will be tonight.

Morton has a “lights out” K/9 rate, striking out more than one batter an inning. He doesn’t walk an awful lot of players. But he has given up one home run every three innings in 2010. That rate has historically been one in 10.

Morton’s 2010 batting average of balls in play (BABIP) is an exceptionally high .439. Unless he’s hurt, that suggests that he’s been unlucky over a small number of innings.

Last year, that average was a perfectly normal .310. Lilly’s is under .300, on the low side of normal, meaning that his results might get worse.

Morton also pitches better at home. Last year, his ERA in PNC Park was just over 3.00. That’s decidedly better than Lilly is likely to be.

The bookies are saying that Morton won’t pitch his best game tonight. But a 2-1 bet against the Pirates is one that I’m willing to take on the long odds side. Because they’re probably shorter than that.

The only thing that I’m not willing to bet on is that Morton will match Lilly inning for inning, run for run. Because Morton is likely to be better than Lilly—or else a lot worse.

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