Brandon Morrow Rumors

Arbitration Filing Numbers

Many players avoided arbitration today, but dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won't go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Rays, Nationals, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays and Braves have stuck to 'file and trial' policies in the past. 

MLBTR's arbitration tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights — players who filed for $4MM or more. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com had most of the info with MLBTR and others also contributing:


Extension Candidate: Brandon Morrow

Brandon Morrow hasn't quite taken the big step towards ace-hood that the Blue Jays were hoping he would take this season, but the right-hander has still has a very solid 2011 campaign.  Morrow has a league-leading 10.5 K/9 ratio, a 3.16 K/BB rate and a somewhat misleading 4.51 ERA (his xFIP is just 3.24) in 20 starts for the Jays.

With Jose Bautista, Ricky Romero, Adam Lind and Yunel Escobar all locked up in multiyear deals, it stands to reason that Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos may turn to Morrow as the next key part of the Jays' future to receive a contract extension.  Morrow, who turned 27 last month, earned $2.3MM this year and has two more arbitration years before being eligible for free agency after the 2013 season.

Morrow's unusual career path could be a factor in helping the Jays get a relative bargain in an extension.  He was primarily used as a reliever in Seattle for the first three years of his career, which depresses his career numbers in the eyes of an arbiter.  Also hurting Morrow is the fact that as of today, his career record (26-25) is barely over the .500 mark and his career high in innings pitched is the 146 1/3 frames he posted last year. 

Combine this with his injury history (a few minor arm-related stints on the DL) and the Blue Jays hold all the cards in extension negotiations.  In fact, all of these factors might even convince the Jays to wait another year to see what they really have in the right-hander.  The club could be content to sign Morrow to a one-year deal for 2012 worth between $4-4.5MM and then look into an extension if he blossoms in 2013.

If an extension did happen this winter, however, a fair number would be a three-year deal worth $19MM, broken down as $4MM in 2012, $6MM in 2013 and $9MM to cover Morrow's first free agent year in 2014.  Knowing Anthopoulos' history, such an extension would certainly include at least one option year, perhaps an $11MM team option for 2015.  Provided that option year was picked up, Morrow would be a free agent at age 31 — still young enough to score a big contract on the open market.

It was one year ago today that Morrow delivered his 17-strikeout, near no-hitter against the Rays.  Given the hype and promise that surrounded Morrow after that masterpiece, a three-year/$19MM extension seems a bit low for a pitcher with his potential.  Morrow himself might prefer to take the risk and only look for a long-term deal once he's established himself as a reliable, upper-tier pitcher.  Then again, given Anthopoulos' already-impressive history of making team-friendly deals, it wouldn't be a surprise if Toronto struck while it had the advantage and ended up with a future ace at a discount price.


Starting Pitchers Linked Entering 2011

Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Garza, Chad Billingsley and John Danks all went to arbitration for the first time before last season and all settled for contracts in the $3-4MM range. The four pitchers went to arbitration again this offseason and settled for contracts within the $5.75-$6.3MM range. A year from now, they will become points of reference for the class of pitchers just behind them (those currently entering their first seasons as arbitration eligible players). Here's a list of pitchers who could be compared to the quartet above after the 2011 season:

  • Mike Pelfrey$3.925MM in 2011 - Pelfrey already has a tremendous amount of big league experience and a fourth consecutive season of 30-plus starts could push his 2012 asking price past the $6.28MM Billingsley will earn in 2011, especially considering Pelfrey's high 2011 salary. Pelfrey doesn't have particularly impressive strikeout numbers or ERAs, however, which will help the Mets keep the right-hander's salary in check.
  • Dallas Braden$3.35MM in 2011 - Garza was working from the same base salary in 2010 and he earned a $2.6MM raise after logging 204 2/3 innings of 3.91 ERA ball in the AL East with a 2.4 K/BB ratio. If Braden wants to match Garza's raise, he'll have to earn it with another big year.
  • Jair Jurrjens, $3.25MM in 2011 - Jurrjens is well-positioned to ask for a salary in the $6MM range next year if he returns to his 2008-09 level of productivity.

Guthrie, Garza, Billingsley and Danks all had relatively healthy, productive seasons in 2010, which kept their 2011 salaries within a $600K range. A poor performance would have disrupted the pattern and the same applies to this year's class. They have to pitch well and stay healthy to earn raises to the $6MM range. Meanwhile, others will have the chance to prove they belong in the same discussion as Pelfrey, Jurrjens and Braden if they have big years.

  • Phil Hughes$2.7MM in 2011 - Hughes, who has just one full season as a Major League starter, is starting from a lower base salary than the others, so he'd likely need a standout season to approach $6MM in 2012.
  • Brandon Morrow$2.3MM in 2011 - Morrow doesn't have the bulk numbers his peers do, so he's at a disadvantage. But he has flashed dominant stuff and if he continues pitching the way he did from June on last year, he could justify asking for a larger-than-usual raise.

Other starters, including Edinson Volquez and Kevin Slowey, are also entering their first seasons as arbitration eligible pitchers, but raises to the $6MM range seem extremely improbable given their current salaries and career numbers. The same goes for super two players Armando Galarraga, Kyle Kendrick, Ross Ohlendorf and Luke Hochevar.



Players To Avoid Arbitration: Tuesday

Today is the deadline for players and teams to submit arbitration figures. The sides will then settle on a salary between the team's proposed number and the player's proposed number or go to an arbitration hearing. Arbitration eligible players are under team control, so the clubs don't risk losing them – it's a question of how much the players will earn.

Yesterday, 11 players avoided arbitration. We could see just as many agreements trickle in today and we'll keep you posted on them right here and with our Arb Tracker. The latest updates will be at the top of the post:

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Baseball Blogs Weigh In: Royals, Rays, Burrell

On this date 41 years ago, Major League owners unanimously elected Bowie Kuhn to a seven-year term as commissioner. It was under Kuhn that the reserve clause was eliminated, paving the way for free agency as we know it.

We've got a lot of links to get to, so let's dive right in…

If you have a suggestion for this feature, Mike can be reached here.


Odds & Ends: Cardinals, Blue Jays, Morrow, Delgado

Some links to check out as Brandon Morrow just misses no-hitting the Rays…


Odds & Ends: Anderson, Penny, Mariners, Zito

Links for Tuesday, as J.J. Hardy hits the disabled list…


Brewers May Not Be Able To Add Another Starter

The Brewers may be right up against their 2010 payroll limit according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, however GM Doug Melvin is still looking to upgrade his club.

"If we can [add another starter] we'd like to," Melvin said at the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. "We might not be able to. We're always looking to improve the club.

"We're trying to keep flexibility to do things. The worst thing you can do is lose flexibility. We still want to be aggressive but we can step back and look at the landscape, see what takes place with free agents and trades."

McCalvy notes that the club's free agent signings total a $21MM commitment for 2010, plus there's another $37MM or so tied up in players already on their roster. The team has seven players eligible for salary arbitration, and there's about $18MM budgeted for them. If they fill out their roster with players making close to the minimum, it'll push Melvin's club over their $80MM or so projected payroll.

Given Randy Wolf's price tag, the team may not be able to add the second starter they crave. Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com said the Brewers will "almost certainly" sign one of Jon Garland, Doug Davis, or Jarrod Washburn, though they may have to make a move to free up some cash to sign one of them.


Odds & Ends: Dodgers, Beltre, Morrow

Some Saturday afternoon links..

  • The Dodgers should have offered salary arbitration to Randy Wolf and Orlando Hudsonto allow themselves the opportunity to receive draft picks, writes Jon Weisman of the Los Angeles Times.  Weisman argues that the worst case scenario of being stuck with one or both players at a slightly inflated price for one season wouldn't have been so bad.  It's hard to dispute this point as we have yet to see the Dodgers do much of anything this winter.
  • Not only are the Athletics talking to free agent Adrian Beltre, they may be the only serious bidder at the moment, according to an item on ESPN's MLB rumor page.  The piece also notes that if Beltre's asking price - believed to be north of $10MM per season – drops into Oakland's price range, the Giants, Cardinals, and Tigers could get in the mix.
  • Seattle's poor decisions stunted the development of Brandon Morrow, writes Ryan Divish of The News Tribune.  While he never had the same ceiling as Tim Lincecum, who was drafted five spots later in the 2006 draft, things could have worked out differently for Morrow if he were given adequate time to develop in the minors. 
  • Shi Davidi of the Associated Presspraises new Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos and his plan to rebuild the franchise.  Davidi writes that Anthopoulos has the support of ownership in a way that J.P. Ricciardi never did.
  • A few free agents left on the market might want to consider lowering their asking price, writes Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.comAdam LaRoche seeking $30MM over three years might be the most wishful of the bunch.

Blue Jays Acquire Brandon Morrow

The Blue Jays acquired pitcher Brandon Morrow from the Mariners for reliever Brandon League and minor league outfielder Johermyn Chavez today.  The agreement was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports on Monday, while MLB.com's Jordan Bastian added the Chavez detail yesterday.

Morrow, 25, has a 3.96 ERA, 9.3 K/9, and 5.7 BB/9 in his 197.6-inning big league career.  The hard-throwing righty was drafted fifth overall by the Mariners in '06.  He made the team's Opening Day roster in '07 as a reliever, and stayed in that role to open the '08 season due to the Erik Bedard acquisition.  He dealt with a shoulder injury that year.  In August of '08 he transitioned to starting.  Elbow issues surfaced in the spring of '09, but once healthy Morrow was back in the 'pen.  He was sidelined by biceps tendinitis shortly thereafter, and it was back to starting in June.  Morrow has a pretty serious injury history in his big league career; it's difficult to determine if the frequent role-switching was the cause or the effect.  He is not yet arbitration-eligible and is under team control through 2013.  Chavez, who turns 21 next month, hit .283/.346/.474 last year in A ball.

League, 27 in March, has a 4.09 ERA, 6.9 K/9, and 3.2 BB/9 in 202.3 career relief innings.  League also throws in the mid-90s, and has a strong career groundball rate of 62%.  He's had an up-and-down career, oddly posting his best peripherals in '09 (3.6 K/BB) alongside a 4.58 ERA.  League had a shoulder injury that cost him most of '07.  He's under team control through 2012.

The Blue Jays come out ahead on this one.  Morrow is an obvious health risk, but he still has frontline starter potential.  It's a gamble worth taking at the cost of a reliever and a prospect.  Perhaps the Mariners believe it's all downhill from here for Morrow.