The Braves and starting pitcher Charlie Morton have agreed to a one-year, $20 million extension that will keep the right-hander with the club through the 2022 season. There's also a $20 million club option for the 2023 season. The deal was announced by the Braves Monday afternoon.
Morton, 37, is 13-5 with a 3.47 ERA (126 ERA+) in 28 starts this season. Morton signed a one-year deal with the Braves in the offseason after spending 2019 and 2020 with the Rays.
Morton's arc shows a good story of perseverance. Through 2016, it was a career littered with major injuries and inconsistency. He was 46-71 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. He was a pitch-to-contact guy with 6.3 K/9 in those years. In working with coaches from 2015-17 from the Phillies, Pirates and Astros, though, Morton transformed himself.
He told me as much at the 2018 All-Star Game.
"I thought my best pitch was my sinker down-and-in to a righty," he said. "They were convinced that it was actually the pitches and locations that got swings and misses. I had never had that attitude before. My goal had always been to get you out in three pitches or less. And now if I get swings and misses I feel like I'm doing the right thing and if I get a groundball I'm like, 'oh man, I'm not doing it right.' And that manifested itself in the way I was pitching. Now I'm trying to throw hard. I'm trying to throw four-seamers. I didn't really do that before. I tried to get sinkers down in the zone. Now I'm trying to throw into areas instead of spots.
"I'm also throwing my curveball more," Morton continued. "When I was with the Phillies, they pulled me into an office and showed me numbers against the curveball in my career and they were like, 'do you see what's going on here?' I said 'that looks pretty good." They said 'you need to throw that pitch more.' The Astros echoed that when I came here. So now I throw four-seamers up in the zone, curveballs down and a changeup every once in a while."
The result of these changes has seen him go 60-23 with a 3.37 ERA (126 ERA+) and 10.6 K/9 in the past five seasons and counting. He's now a two-time All-Star with a third-place finish in Cy Young voting and a World Series ring. He closed down Game 7 of that World Series, too, for the Astros in 2017. This all happened in his ages 33-37 seasons.
Former Marlins president David Samson discussed Morton's extension on Tuesday's Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
The Braves are betting on the good times continuing to roll in Morton's age-38 season and with the club option not having a buyout attached, it appears Morton is betting on himself earning that age-39 payday.
The Braves entered Monday's action with a two-game lead in the NL East.