The Atlanta Braves have agreed to terms with free agent starting pitcher Charlie Morton on a one-year, $15 million deal, the club announced on Tuesday morning. Morton, 37, spent the last two seasons with the Rays and was an All-Star in 2019. He pitched to a 4.74 ERA (90 ERA+) with 42 strikeouts against 10 walks in 38 innings in nine starts in the regular season. He won his first three playoff starts, while posting a 0.57 ERA in the process, but then got knocked around by the World Champion Dodgers in Game 3 of the World Series.
Morton had a $15 million option year for the 2021 season with the Rays, but they declined to pick it up. The club was said to want him back and looking for ways to be "creative" in order to make that happen. Morton, meantime, was said to be mulling retirement.
No matter, the Braves have swooped in and grabbed the two-time All-Star at the same price tag. Things even out for Morton and he remains with a pennant contender.
The Braves, after reaching Game 7 of the NLCS, now run out the following rotation for 2021, assuming full health, notably from a certain Achilles:
- Mike Soroka (recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon)
- Max Fried
- Charlie Morton
- Ian Anderson
- Drew Smyly or Kyle Wright
As can be seen in the five spot, the Braves have already inked Smyly this offseason to add depth to their rotation. In Morton, they've added more than depth. They have grabbed someone who could look like a frontline starter, meaning they are four deep with the type. Soroka finished sixth in Cy Young voting in 2019 at age 21. Fried was sixth this season at age 26. Anderson had a 1.95 ERA in six starts in the regular season and then 0.96 ERA in four postseason starts as a rookie this season. Morton is the grizzly veteran who finished third in AL Cy Young voting in 2019.
Things come a bit full circle for Morton here. He was drafted in the third round by the Braves out of high school in 2002 and made his MLB debut with the Braves in 2008. The Braves traded him to the Pirates in 2009 in what was then the "Nate McLouth" deal.