There are no givens with MLB players and that’s certainly true of Pirates right-handed starter Charlier Morton. But the news today, from multiple sources, that Morton and the team agreed to a three-year deal worth at least $21 million and as much as $30 million was a smart business decision.
Morton was eligible for arbitration this season and would have been a free agent after 2014.
The deal will pay Morton $4 million this season -- about what he would have received in arbitration -- and $8 million in 2015 and 2016. There is a club option of $9.5 million for 2017 with a $1 million buyout.
It’s a lot of money, but it’s the price of doing business in MLB today.
If anything, the Pirates got Morton for below market value. Pitchers with less impressive 2013 seasons than Morton had are signing for a lot more.
Jason Vargas, for example, signed a four-year deal with Kansas City worth $32 million. Vargas was 9-8 last season with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Morton was 7-4 with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP.
Houston gave Scott Feldman $30 million for three years. Feldman was 5-6 with Baltimore with a 4.27 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP in 2013.
The Pirates deal is another example of the team showing faith in Morton. Although he was out in 2012 after May with Tommy John surgery and with an uncertain return date in 2013, the Pirates went to arbitration with him and paid him $2 million. He rewarded that faith by returning to the rotation June and being a key member the rest of the way.
In the second half of the season, his ERA of 3.28 was second on the team to Gerrit Cole.
The Pirates need to be thinking of the future in terms of their rotation. Francisco Liriano and Wandy Rodriguez will be eligible for free agency after the upcoming season. Going ahead, Cole, Morton and top prospect Jameson Taillon look to be the core of the team’s rotation.
Speaking to Yahoo! Sports, Morton’s agent, Andrew Lowenthal said, ''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."