Pirates agree to extension with pitcher Charlie Morton


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Pirates and starter Charlie Morton agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract extension Wednesday with a club option for 2017.

Morton, 30, had a 3.26 ERA in 116 innings in 2013 after returning in June from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery.

Morton will make $4 million in 2014 and $8 million in '15 and '16, according to a source familiar with the contract. The contract includes a $9.5 million option for 2017 and a $1 million buyout.

The option becomes a mutual option if Morton is traded. If Morton is traded and declines his side of the mutual option, he forfeits the buyout. The $500,000 available in performance bonuses in Morton's option is based on games started: $125,000 each for 15, 20, 25 and 30 starts.

The deal buys out at least the first two years of what would have been Morton’s free agency. He was eligible for arbitration for the final time this offseason and would have become a free agent after the 2014 season.

The two sides began negotiating in early November. Morton passed a physical in Pittsburgh Wednesday and the deal became official.

“From the get-go, it was just about being with the Pirates,” Morton said.

The Atlanta Braves originally drafted Morton in 2002, and he debuted with them in ’08. The Pirates acquired Morton in 2009, along with Jeff Locke and Gorkys Hernandez, when they traded Nate McLouth to Atlanta.

Morton struggled in 2009 and ’10. In 2011, he revamped his delivery to lower his arm slot and create more movement on his two-seam fastball. The change helped him to a 3.83 ERA in 1712/3 innings.

After 2011, Morton had offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He made only nine starts in 2012 before needing elbow reconstruction surgery in June. He returned this past season with a few more miles per hour on his fastball and pitched well, especially in the season’s second half: During a six-game stretch in August and September, Morton had a 1.74 ERA in 411/3 innings.

Morton started one game for the Pirates in the National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, allowing two runs in 52/3 innings.

“I’ve been here when things have been really, really bad, and I’ve been here when things have been the best they’ve been in a long time,” Morton said.


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