Phillies

One of baseball's best big-game pitchers returning to NL East

Phillies

One of the best big-game pitchers of the last four years is headed back to the NL East. Charlie Morton has agreed to a one-year, $15 million contract with the Braves, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Morton is 37 years old and a short-term fit but he should bolster the Braves’ rotation. He’s 47-18 with a 3.34 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 10.6 K/9 in the four seasons since his year with the Phillies. The only four starting pitchers in baseball over that span who’ve matched Morton’s ERA, WHIP and K/9 in as many innings are Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Morton has also been money in the playoffs, save for his rare misstep in Game 3 of the 2020 World Series against the Dodgers when he allowed five runs in 4⅓ innings. In Morton’s prior nine playoff starts, he was 7-0 with a 1.45 ERA.

Here, he lasted four starts before tearing his hamstring running out a bunt attempt.

The Braves, like they’ve been in recent offseasons under aggressive GM Alex Anthopoulos, have acted quickly in free agency. They’ve brought in the two highest-paid free agents so far in Morton (one year, $15M) and left-hander Drew Smyly (one year, $11M).

So far, only one-year deals have been have signed. There have been nine of them, four for under $1 million. Marcus Stroman (Mets) and Kevin Gausman (Giants) each signed the one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer which kept them from free agency.

 

The Braves dealt with a plethora of starting pitching injuries in 2020 and still won the division decisively. They went 35-25 and outscored their opponents by 65 more runs than any NL East team.

After beating the Marlins in the NLDS, the Braves took a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS over the Dodgers but lost the final three, one of which was a bullpen game.  

Their 2021 rotation should be substantially better with Max Fried, Morton, Ian Anderson and Smyly. They’ll also get 2019 ace Mike Soroka back at some point. He tore his Achilles in late July and resumed throwing this week.

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