Charlie Morton revived his career with the Houston Astros.
After seven years in Pittsburgh and a pitstop with the Phillies marred by injuries in 2015, The Astros took a flyer on the 33-year-old righty in the 2016 offseason. Up until that season, Chuck had known as a been a hard-throwing, middle of the rotation guy. Most people assumed he was going to be a 5th starter or long-reliever in a loaded Astros rotation.
Morton turned out to have a lot more left in the tank than anyone expected. He had an ERA under 3.70, 14 + wins, and a K /9 rate of 10.0 or higher in both years in Houston. He frequently hovered around 97 miles per hour on his fastball and showed off one of the best curveballs in all of baseball.
Morton even recorded the final out of the 2017 World Series for the ‘Stros.
Most experts thought that Morton was ready to hang ‘em up after this year, being that he turned 35 last month. However, those damn Tampa Bay Rays came a knocking.
Today, Morton agreed to a two year, $30 million contract with Rays, and thus, Tampa has begun building their wild card team. This is pretty surprising because Morton was expected to retire, but what’s more surprising is that the Rays are actually spending money.
Tampa Bay is by far one of the smallest markets in baseball. $30 million over two years to the Rays is like $60 million over two years to the Red Sox, and to give it to a guy like Morton who is going to be 37 when the deal is over? Seeing how gung-ho they are to trade guys like Brad Boxberger and Mallex Smith, and release talented players like CJ Cron and Corey Dickerson just to save a couple of dollars, this is a very un-Rays decision.
My assumption is that the Rays know that they are going to be good in 2019, but they know they’re going to be better in 2020 and beyond. The Rays have five players in the Top 100 prospects list at this moment, and three of them are pitchers, all of which are projected to reach the bigs at some point this year. When you couple them with arms like Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Jake Faria, and Ryan Yarbrough, Morton is likely going to serve as the mentor to this young group of raw pitchers.
The Rays are rumored to be in on free agent DH Nelson Cruz, as well as being tied to the Indians Edwin Encarnacion.
Who knows? The Rays are one of the most unpredictable teams in all of sports. Morton could be traded by Opening Day for all we know, and the team would still go on to have the best pitching staff in baseball.
Nevertheless, with a core of great position players, as well as pitchers in the pipeline, the Rays may be using 2019 as their bridge year.
The Rays are about to crawl there way back to 2011.
Photo by Karen Warren-Houston Chronicle