Pittsburgh Pirates Dump Salary, Trade Charlie Morton to Philadelphia Phillies


Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In a move that seems like it may be setting up another one, the Pittsburgh Pirates have traded starting pitcher Charlie Morton to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for minor league pitcher David Whitehead. With the addition of southpaw Jon Niese, the Pirates’ front office found it a bit easier to part with Morton; the team must value lefties as the handedness is just about all that separates Niese and Morton.

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Even with Niese, the team still had at least one spot open in the starting rotation and so letting Morton go may not make sense until you look at the money involved. Morton was going to make $8 million in 2016 and with Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon ready to break into the major league rotation, he became expendable.

With that additional money, the Pirates can be more competitive in the free agency or trade market as they continue to shop for a left-handed bat at first base and perhaps, a starting pitcher of a higher caliber than Morton.

Morton wasn’t great, he wasn’t horrible – he was just dependable. Just like Niese, he doesn’t strike many people out and has had problems with control but he keeps the ball in the stadium. He hasn’t allowed higher than 1 home run per nine innings since 2010 but going to Philadelphia may inflate those numbers.

Morton is a solid starter at the back end of a rotation but there is no reason to have he and Jon Niese in the same rotation. Morton doesn’t have dominant stuff and isn’t the guy the Pirates want to count on in a crucial playoff game. It makes perfect sense to me why the Pirates would want to use his salary on either a bat or a pitcher that can take over a game and swing the momentum when needed.

The biggest reason I think this move is nothing more than a salary dump is because David Whitehead isn’t a top prospect and likely wont see the majors for another two or three seasons.

Since being drafted in 2013, Whitehead has made 38 minor league starts, going 13-15 with a 3.65 ERA. However, nothing about his numbers jump out at you. In fact, at this point it is a serious concern that Whitehead may never reach the majors. His ERA was 4.44 in Single-A last year for the Phillies, his control really suffered as he had 10 wild pitches with 13 hit batters and was allowing over 10 hits per nine innings.

He doesn’t strike out many guys and his walk numbers tripled last season so it’s hard to see the upside in Whitehead. But, just by freeing up Morton’s salary and preparing themselves to chase a bigger target, the Pirates made a solid move here.