Charlie Morton Rumors

NL Central Notes: Gallardo, Morton, Huntington, Alvarez

Here’s the latest out of the NL Central …

  • The Brewers have decided to exercise a $13MM option over starter Yovani Gallardo, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. As MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy recently explained, that move was widely expected with the 28-year-old righty coming off of 192 1/3 frames of 3.51 ERA ball. Gallardo would have presented an interesting free agent case; though he would have faced a lot of competition in the mid-tier starter’s market, his age remains intriguing.
  • Pirates starter Charlie Morton has undergone surgery on a torn right hip labrum, the club announced today. That procedure is expected to sideline him for between six and eight months, meaning that he may not be counted on to start the year in the rotation. The 30-year-old righty has posted a 3.72 ERA over 157 1/3 innings this year, after signing a three-year, $21MM extension before the season.
  • As the Morton situation serves to illustrate, things never slow down for Pirates GM Neal Huntington, as Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes. Regarding the team’s slate of pending free agents, Huntington indicated that he hopes to retain at least some of its players but, if not, will work hard to find the next bunch of undervalued open market assets. Looking back, Huntington said he has continued to wonder what the team missed in not pushing harder to bring back Justin Morneau“What did we miss in that process that he would go out and have such a great year?” Huntington asked. “That’s been a challenging one, absolutely, especially given our continued challenges at first base and what that production would have looked like in the middle of our lineup.”  
  • As he looks ahead to the offseason, Huntington says that he believes Pedro Alvarez will return to being an important part of the club. The struggling third baseman has taken a step back after two productive seasons, but is still just 27 and comes with two more years of control through arbitration.

Central Links: Dirks, Cubs, Morton, Meyer, Reds

Tigers outfielder Andy Dirks suffered yet another setback in his return from back surgery i a rehab game on Sunday, according to James Schmel of MLive.com. Dirks sustained the second hamstring injury of his rehab assignment, and while the results of a Tuesday MRI have yet to be disclosed, it’s looking unlikely that he will play for the Tigers at all this season, writes Schmel. There are just 13 games remaining in the minor league regular season, and Dirks may not have enough time to rehab and prepare himself to suit up for the reigning AL Central champs this year.

Here’s more from baseball’s Central divisions…

  • Much has been made of the Cubs‘ plan to pursue top-of-the-rotation arms this offseason, but GM Jed Hoyer said to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times this weekend that a veteran position player is a priority as well. “…[T]here’s a lot of positions on the field that we want to dedicate to the guys that are here or to young players,” said Hoyer. “But I do think it’s important to have some veteran guys with good approaches that these guys can lean on… … It’s certainly something we want to find.”
  • Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton was originally placed on the disabled list for a hip issue, but he has now been diagnosed with a sports hernia, he told reporters, including Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Twitter link). Morton will try to return in 2014, but that doesn’t appear to be a certainty, and even if he does, offseason surgery remains a possibility.
  • Twins top prospect Alex Meyer is right where he should be in regard to the team’s projected innings limit, GM Terry Ryan tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ryan will watch Meyer’s final home start of the year next week but is not ready to concretely say that the flamethrower will receive a September call-up. The Twins would need to add Meyer to the 40-man roster to do so, but as Berardino notes, that would happen following the season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft anyway. Meyer ranked on the midseason Top 50 prospect lists of ESPN’s Keith Law, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB.com, placing as high as 12th overall (on B-Pro’s list).
  • Following the Reds‘ recent four-game losing streak — each of which featured the bullpen blowing a lead — John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer opines that it’s time to shift the focus to 2015. Fay examines the club’s chances of contending and writes that they won’t be big players on the free agent market, as is typically the M.O. of owner Bob Castellini. Fay also notes that the Reds debated moving a starting pitcher at the non-waiver trade deadline, but Castellini wouldn’t sign off on a sale. Fay feels that a starter, such as Johnny Cueto or Mat Latos, could become trade bait in the offseason with the Reds in need of a bat.

Pirates Extend Charlie Morton

The Pirates have signed right-hander Charlie Morton to a three-year, $21MM extension that could reach $30MM in total value, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Morton-Charlie

Morton, who is represented by Jet Sports Management, will earn $4MM in 2014, $8MM in 2015-16 and has a $1MM buyout on a $9.5MM club option (plus $500K of incentives) for the 2017 season. The option would become a mutual option were Morton to be traded at any point throughout the life of the deal.

Had he not signed the extension, Morton would have been eligible for free agency following the 2014 campaign. The extension is similar to the three-year, $20MM figure suggested as a fair price by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes when examining Pittsburgh's arbitration eligible players back in early November.

The 30-year-old Morton returned from 2012 Tommy John surgery this season and turned in a strong campaign. Morton pitched to a 3.26 ERA with 6.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 and a whopping 62.9 percent ground-ball rate that led all Major League pitchers that threw at least 100 innings.

Originally acquired (along with lefty Jeff Locke and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez) in the 2009 trade that sent Nate McLouth to the Braves, Morton broke out with the Pirates in 2011 when he posted a solid 3.83 ERA in 171 2/3 innings. Over his past three seasons, Morton has pitched to a 3.75 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 — numbers that have been deflated, to an extent, by his elbow issues in 2012.

MLBTR's Matt Swartz projected Morton to earn $3.9MM in 2014, so the contract essentially guarantees Morton $17MM for a pair of free agent seasons. Had he not signed the extension and had a solid season, Morton would have had a chance to earn more on the free agent market. However, players with Morton's type of injury history haven't typically done this well in contract extensions, and Morton opted for the security of guaranteed money. Morton's agent, Andrew Lowenthal, told Passan that his client never had any desire to leave Pittsburgh:

"The most important part of this deal and the reason why this deal got done is Charlie wanted to remain a Pirate and considers himself a Pirate. He loves the city. He loves the fans. The team stuck by him. This is Charlie’s way of being loyal to the organization. The contract is a win-win."

Morton will join Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Wandy Rodriguez in the 2014 rotation and will now be considered a cornerstone of Pittsburgh's rotation alongside Cole for the foreseeable future.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Players To Avoid Arbitration

Tonight is the deadline for teams to tender contracts to arbitration eligible players. Many teams will agree to terms with players before the 11pm CT deadline and we'll keep track of them here. Be sure to check out MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker for complete details:

  • The Mariners have avoided arbitration with Josh Kinney, the team announced. It's a one-year deal.
  • The Pirates have agreed to terms with Charlie Morton, the team announced. The right-hander missed most of the season following Tommy John surgery. Morton will earn $2MM, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has learned.
  • The Athletics avoided arbitration with Adam Rosales, the team announced. They also agreed to sign Daric Barton to a one-year, $1.1MM contract, avoiding arbitration, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (on Twitter). The non-guaranteed deal includes $250K in incentives. Barton had been a non-tender candidate.
  • The Orioles announced that they have avoided arbitration with Taylor Teagarden, Steve Pearce, and Alexi Casilla. Casilla's deal is worth $1.7MM with a $3MM option for 2014 ($200K buyout) according to Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun (on Twitter).
  • The Astros announced that they have avoided arbitration with Phil Humber. It's a one-year deal worth $800K with a $3MM club option for 2014 ($500K buyout), reports the AP via MLB.com's Brian McTaggart (on Twitter). Houston claimed the right-hander off waivers earlier today.
  • The Yankees announced that they avoided arbitration with Jayson Nix, signing the infielder to a Major League deal for 2013.
  • The Royals announced that they avoided arbitration with second baseman Chris Getz, agreeing to a one-year, Major League contract. Getz will earn $1.05MM in 2013 on a deal that includes up to $150K in performance bonuses, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports (on Twitter). Luke Hochevar is Kansas City's lone unsigned arbitration eligible player as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.


Pirates Notes: Upton, Quentin, Lincoln

The Pirates, who lead the NL Central with a 48-37 record, aim to improve their roster for the second half of the season. “We’re in a buying mode,” manager Clint Hurdle said, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates have inquired on Carlos Quentin and Justin Upton, two of the top bats available this summer. Here are the details on the Pirates…

  • “Our focus is to exhaustively search all opportunities to add to this club and to execute the right move(s) to make this club better,” GM Neal Huntington said, according to Biertempfel.
  • The Diamondbacks and Padres might have some degree of interest in right-hander Brad Lincoln in potential deals involving Upton and Quentin, Biertempfel reports (on Twitter). The Diamondbacks are scouting the Pirates’ Triple-A team and the Padres are scouting the Pirates’ Class A West Virginia team, Biertempfel adds.
  • Biertempfel suggests the Pirates could use starting pitching depth.
  • Within Biertempfel’s piece a handful of former general managers share thoughts on what the Pirates should do this year.

Pirates Avoid Arbitration With Charlie Morton

The Pirates avoided arbitration with starter Charlie Morton, MLBTR has learned, agreeing on a one-year deal worth $2.445MM.  The Proformance client tops Matt Swartz's projection by over $300K.  Morton was arbitration eligible for the first time, and peers such as Chris Volstad, J.A. Happ, Randy Wells, Clayton Richard, and Homer Bailey will take note of his agreement.

As our arbitration tracker shows, the Pirates' remaining arbitration eligible players are Garrett Jones, Jeff Karstens, Casey McGehee, and Evan Meek.


NL Central Notes: Rendon, Astros, Green

The Cardinals and Reds sit atop the NL Central standings thanks to the two highest-scoring offenses in the National League. Even without vintage Albert Pujols, the Cards lead the league in runs (227) and OPS+ (120). Here's the latest on a few of their division rivals…

  • Pirates GM Neal Huntington saw possible first overall selection Anthony Rendon three times last week, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (on Twitter). The Pirates are considering a handful of players with the top pick.
  • Dave Cameron of FanGraphs examines Charlie Morton's unusual platoon splits and says the Pirates right-hander will have to adjust his approach against left-handed hitters if he wants to maintain his early-season success.
  • When incoming Astros owner Jim Crane talks about spending wisely and having enough money to run the team effectively, it sounds good, but as Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle says, “nothing really matters except results.”
  • Sean Green accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A and will stay with the Brewers organization, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy (on Twitter). Milwaukee designated the reliever for assignment earlier in the month.

Reactions To McLouth Deal, Glavine’s Release

The Braves caught our attention yesterday with two major moves. They released Tom Glavine and then traded for Nate McLouth an hour later. Here's an assortment of reactions from around the majors:

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post talked to one executive who believes the Pirates sent a mixed message by signing McLouth to an extension and dealing him soon after. One team official says the Pirates never shopped McLouth, which suggests they were impressed by the Braves' offer.
  • ESPN.com's Rob Neyer says he usually loves deals like this for the team acquiring young talent. In this case, he doesn't believe the Pirates got enough. For the Braves, however, it's a "brilliant" move.
  • MLB.com's Adam Rosenberg reports that McLouth will arrive in Atlanta today.
  • MLB.com's Jen Langosch sees both sides of the deal for the Pirates: It's possible Neal Huntington could have traded McLouth for more, but the three players he obtained are good ones.
  • In spite of all the analysis, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says we won't really know who won this deal for months or even years.
  • Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says the fan reaciton has been "mostly negative."  
  • John Smoltz's reaction to the Braves' decision to release his former teammate: "That's not how you treat people." Smoltz disagrees openly with the move in the rest of his discussion with Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. 
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says Glavine can prove the Braves wrong by pitching well for another team.
  • Yahoo's Jeff Passan believes it took a "healthy dose of emotional detachment" to cut Glavine, one that signaled "a clean break from the Braves' old identity."

Why The Braves-Peavy Trade Fell Apart

Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune had an article yesterday involving a couple of failed Padres trades.

Krasovic says the Padres and Braves were discussing a 4-for-1 Jake Peavy deal in November.  Yunel Escobar and Gorkys Hernadez were agreed upon.  The conflict came as the Padres wanted Charlie Morton over Jo-Jo Reyes as well as Jeff Locke or Tyler Flowers over Blaine Boyer.  To me that gap looks pretty sizeable, so maybe the trade was never close.  At this point it seems like the Braves could end up with Javier Vazquez and Kenshin Kawakami as their rotation upgrades.  They’ve reportedly made Escobar unavailable, leading Dan Hayes of the North County Times to suggest the Braves would have to remove Tommy Hanson‘s apparent "untouchable" tag to get Peavy.  Everything I’ve read about Hanson has said the Braves are adamant about keeping him.

Krasovic also says the Giants made a run at shortstop Khalil Greene before he was dealt to the Cardinals.


Braves Near Peavy Deal?

According to Scott Miller of CBSSports.com, the Padres are expected to request Jake Peavy waive his no-trade clause to go to the Braves.  The deal being discussed:  Yunel Escobar, Gorkys Hernandez, Charlie Morton or Jo-Jo Reyes, and Blaine Boyer or one of two minor league southpaws.  Miller says the Padres are leaning toward Morton and Boyer.

The Braves want an answer by Friday, so they can figure out their free agent needs.  Peavy is said to prefer the Cubs, but we’ll see what happens if the Padres approach him to waive the no-trade for Atlanta.  It hasn’t happened yet.