An Old Friend That Can Help The Pittsburgh Pirates Rotation


The Pittsburgh Pirates need to add starting pitching this offseason, and an ex-Pirate who is a free agent could help the starting rotation.

There is no debate as to what the Pittsburgh Pirates’ biggest need is this offseason. That need is starting pitching. After Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Chad Kuhl, the Pirates’ rotation is a huge question mark.

As the 2016 offseason begins the Pittsburgh Pirates’ lineup is pretty set in stone. The same goes for their bench and bullpen. However, their starting rotation needs help.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, the free agent starting pitching class this offseason is very thin. The two best pitchers available are Ivan Nova and Jeremy Hellickson. While both Nova and Hellickson are strong middle of the rotation arms, they will both get paid like top of the rotation arms due to the lack of available pitching. Due to this, signing a free agent starting pitcher will be difficult.

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However, there is one starting pitcher available that should come at a very reasonable price. In fact, this starting pitcher is an ex-Pirate. I am talking about Charlie Morton.

Yesterday, the Philadelphia Phillies declined the option on Morton’s contract. This made the 32-year old right-handed pitcher a free agent. And, in my opinion, the Pirates should kick the tires on Morton.

While Charlie Morton was far from popular during his time in Pittsburgh, he can help the 2017 Pittsburgh Pirates. Regardless of what anyone wants to think, Morton has been a strong middle of the rotation starting pitcher since he overhauled his pitching mechanics prior to the 2011 season. And the stats back that up.

Since the start of the 2011 season Charlie Morton has pitched 641 2/3 innings. Morton owns a 3.97 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 3.86 xFIP, 1.38 WHIP, and a 6.5 WAR during this six year stretch. In those 641 2/3 innings Morton averaged just 3.23 BB/9 and a fantastic 0.56 HR/9. Additionally, he owns a very strong 58.3 percent ground ball rate. There is a reason they call him ‘Ground Chuck’ after all.

Over the course of the past six seasons Charlie Morton has developed a strong sinker and an even better curveball. In fact, quietly, Morton’s curveballs became one of the best in Major League baseball in recent seasons. However, Morton, clearly, has his flaws.

The biggest problem with Morton the past six seasons has been healthy. A variety of injuries have caused him to spend time on the disabled list in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. In fact, he pitched just 17 1/3 innings in 2016 before suffering a season ending leg injury.

Since pitching a career high 171 2/3 innings back in 2011, Morton has topped 100 innings pitched just three times. These three instances came in 2013 (116 IP), 2014 (157 1/3 IP), and 2015 (129 IP). However, if healthy, Morton is a strong middle of the rotation arm.

Even though health is always a question mark with Morton, the Pittsburgh Pirates, if they re-signed him, may not need a full season out of him in 2017. Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon will both be expected to give the Pirates 30 starts, while Chad Kuhl will be relied upon for at least 25 more. Furthermore, prospects Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham should be Major League mainstays by mid-June at the latest.

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I am not predicting that the Pittsburgh Pirates will sign Charlie Morton this offseason. I am simply saying that kicking the tires on Morton would not be a bad idea. Odds are, Morton can be had for a one or two year deal at a relatively cheap price. And if Morton repeats what he’s done the past six seasons, then he will be an upgrade for the middle of the Pirates’ rotation.