Following up on his successful but modest transition to the bullpen for 18 games in 2016, Brandon Morrow exploded as a fantasy relief weapon (even as a non-closer) in his 2017 debut with the Dodgers. The former high-strikeout but injury-prone starter revived his dormant dominance, fanning 50 in 43.2 innings. His fastball velocity was boosted by 2.7 mph, and his budding cutter reached the next level. Oh, and he ditched his lethargic sinker. He thrived in peppering the strike zone, posting a 15.9 percent swinging-strike rate and 69.4 percent first-pitch strike rate -- both career bests. Morrow landed a two-year deal with the Cubs in free agency and is considered the favorite to close as of mid-December. Even if Chicago adds another back-end arm, these are skills worth buying to round out a fantasy pitching staff.
Morrow is seen as the Cubs' would-be closer, barring further offseason additions, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Wittenmyer goes on to say that the Cubs are keeping the door open for an affordable Wade Davis reunion, in which case Morrow would move to a setup role. Even if the Cubs don't add another closer between now and Opening Day, Morrow would be a shaky fantasy option, given his injury history and the presence of Carl Edwards Jr. and Justin Wilson, who are also very capable options for the ninth inning. Morrow notched a 2.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 50 strikeouts in 43.2 innings as a setup man with the Dodgers last season.
Morrow agreed to a two-year deal with the Cubs on Sunday, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports. Morrow is coming off a magnificent season with the Dodgers and will provide a much-needed reliable option at the back end of the Cubs' bullpen. In 43.2 innings of relief in 2017, the veteran righty posted a 2.06 ERA (1.55 FIP) with a 50:9 K:BB. The Cubs' closing situation is still in a bit of flux after Wade Davis declined his qualifying offer and elected free agency. Morrow could at least be in the picture for saves, if not the top option, by offseason's end.
Morrow struck out two batters over a perfect inning to convert the save in Sunday's 3-1 win over the Giants. Kenley Jansen was getting extra rest after converting consecutive saves Thursday and Friday, opening the door for Morrow to pick up his second save of the season. The 33-year-old has elevated himself into a setup role after posting a sparkling 2.11 ERA through 42.2 innings this season. The Dodgers may opt to give their closer extra rest with nothing left to play for in the final week of the regular season, so Morrow could wind up seeing another save opportunity or two down the stretch.
Morrow should see increased hold opportunities with Pedro Baez (manager's decision) being held out of action for a couple of games, Bill Plunkett of The Orange County Register reports. The 32-year-old was already pitching his way into a larger role after posting a 2.21 ERA and 5.8 K/BB ratio through 42 appearances, but with Baez out of the picture, Morrow clearly becomes the top option for hold chances -- and potential vulture saves -- in Los Angeles.
Morrow (back) is available to pitch Thursday against the Rockies, Eric Stephen of TrueBlueLA.com reports. A back issue sidelined Morrow for several days, but he's been given the green light to return, meaning the Dodgers' bullpen will be pretty much at full strength for the start of the series. Morrow has pitched very well this season and has been trusted more in higher-leverage spots lately (six holds since the All-Star break).