Charlie Morton Contract

A one-year contract extension for starting pitcher Charlie Morton was revealed by the Braves tonight. He will earn $20 million in 2020, and the two parties have also agreed to a no-buyout club option for the 2024 season at the same amount. The Braves are among the minority that publicly disclose contact information.

Morton has decided to return to Atlanta for the third season. After signing a $15 million, one-year free agent contract in the offseason of 2020-21, he has since signed late-season extension deals in each of the past two seasons. Both deals were for a single year with a $20 million guarantee and a $20 million team option.

Atlanta could have easily paid Morton $20 million in 2023 by exercising an option in his prior deal, but instead, they reached a preemptive arrangement with Wasserman’s client that included a further option for the following season.

The club seems to feel comfortable around the 15-year and vice versa. Over his first two seasons in Atlanta, he started 63 games in the regular season and never once had to be placed on the disabled list.

After the regular season ended in 2021, he started four more games. Personal disappointment ensued when Morton shattered his right leg in Game 1 of the World Series and had to be replaced. However, they ultimately prevailed over the Astros and won the championship, and Morton was right back in the lineup to start the following season.

Morton had a great rookie season with a 3.34 ERA in 185 2/3 innings for the Atlanta Braves. To prepare for his last start of the year, he has thrown 167 2/3 innings with a 4.29 earned run average. The two-time All-Star has shown no indications of physical deterioration, with a 28.6% strikeout percentage in 2021 and 28.4% this year.

Morton’s average velocity on his four-seam fastball this season is 94.9 miles per hour, and on his go-to curveball, he has averaged 81.2 miles per hour, which is not too far off from his 95.5 and 80.6 MPH figures from last year.

In almost every respect, the tale is identical. A percentage of 12.3 percent of Morton’s total pitches have been swinging strikes in both seasons. That’s higher than the league average for starters this year of 10.7%, and Morton has maintained a swinging strike rate in the 12-percent zone for the past five seasons in a row. Morton’s raw arsenal and ability to miss bats have not diminished despite the fact that he will turn 39 in less than two months.

Atypical difficulty in throwing strikes at the beginning of the season was the primary factor in his overall decline in output. Morton had four April starts and walked 11 batters while allowing 14 runs in 18 innings. By the time the calendar changed to May, he had largely established his feet from a commanding standpoint.

Since the beginning of May, he has made 26 starts and has a 3.97 ERA, 29.9% strikeout rate, and 8.2% walk percentage. In that time frame, he has limited opposing batters to a.218/.301/.384 slash line. Morton had a great June–August but has struggled again this September, with a 5.27 ERA in five starts.

The Braves haven’t given him much of a hard time despite his early season control issues and his rough outings against the Mariners and Phillies. Despite Morton’s ground-ball percentage dropping to a career-low 39.7% clip, he has plenty of reasons to be optimistic that he can be an above-average starting next season thanks to his velocity and an outstanding strikeout and walk profile.

Meanwhile, it looks like Morton is satisfied to take his playing career one year at a time. In 2017, Morton transformed himself from a back-of-the-rotation ground-ball specialist for the Pirates into a strikeout artist for the Astros.

He spent two years with the Astros before signing a two-year free agent deal with the Rays, meaning he’ll spend at least three years in a row with the Braves. As a free agent, he has reportedly limited his travel to the Southeast in order to be near his family.

Charlie Morton Contract

Of course, location isn’t the only thing that makes the Braves a desirable pitching destination. Morton is still an integral cog in a formidable lineup that has the club on the cusp of 100 victories and in serious contention for a repeat in the NL East. In addition to All-Star Max Fried and Breakout Pitcher Kyle Wright, he is part of a formidable starting five.

Although veteran Jake Odorizzi has been starting for Atlanta’s fifth rotation position since being traded from the Astros at the trade deadline, the Braves also have promising depth options in youngster Bryce Elder and prospect Freddy Tarnok.

A full revival of that team is possible for the year 2023. All three of Strider, Fried, and Wright are under the jurisdiction of the club. Odorizzi is facing a choice between exercising a player option worth $12.5 million and accepting a buyout of $6.25 million in order to explore free agency.

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As well as Elder and Tarnok, the teams have some say over the likes of the former top prospect to mid-rotation arm Ian Anderson, as well as Mike Soroka, Kyle Muller, and Huascar Ynoa (although Ynoa is unlikely to pitch next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery recently).

With so many choices, the team has less of a need to go outside the organization for rotation help. By re-signing Morton, the front office is continuing its recent trend of wanting to keep as much of the present core together as possible. In addition to Ronald Acuna Jr., Travis d’Arnaud, and Ozzie Albies, Atlanta has extended the contracts of Matt Olson, Austin Riley, and Michael Harris II thus far in 2018.

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According to Roster Resource, with an additional $20MM committed to next year’s books (if Odorizzi exercises his option), the team’s guaranteed obligations will be well above $165MM. That doesn’t even take into consideration the wages of arbitration candidates Fried, Soroka, and high-leverage reliever A.J. Minter, nor does it take into account the likelihood of extending upcoming free agency shortstop Dansby Swanson.

With a championship under their belts from last year and another postseason berth in sight—and at least two home playoff games guaranteed—the Liberty Media ownership group is clearly at ease with the prospect of breaking this year’s club record Opening Day payroll of $178 million.

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