Continuing a busy week, the Phillies on Saturday morning announced they have acquired veteran starting pitcher Charlie Morton from the Pittsburgh Pirates for minor-league pitcher David Whitehead.
Morton, a 32-year-old right-hander, was 22-25 with a 3.94 ERA in 69 starts the last three seasons for the Pirates. He famously made mid-career adjustments to pattern his pitching delivery after former Phillies ace Roy Halladay.
Morton is the second veteran starter acquired by the Phillies this offseason, joining Jeremy Hellickson. Morton and Hellickson will add veteran presence to a young group of starters that includes Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan. Vincent Velasquez, a 23-year-old right-hander, is also expected to be in that mix. He is one of five players that the Phillies acquired from Houston in the trade for Ken Giles. That trade was officially announced Saturday afternoon.
Both Hellickson and Morton could be free agents after the 2016 season so they could potentially be July trade bait — if they pitch well.
Morton is 45-70 with a 4.54 ERA in an eight-year big-league career. The Pirates, still looking at some free agents, gained salary relief in the trade and that appears to be an important factor in their desire to make the deal. Morton is signed at $8 million for 2016. There is a mutual option worth $9.5 million for 2017.
Whitehead, 23, was the Phillies’ 34th round draft pick in 2013. He was 9-11 with a 4.44 ERA in 25 starts for Single A Clearwater last season.
To make room for Morton on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated pitcher A.J. Achter for assignment. He had been picked up off waivers from Minnesota earlier this offseason.