The MLB Hot Stove has now finally been lit with dozens of free agents eligible to negotiate with any team. The Philadelphia Phillies are widely considered to be one of the leading contenders to strike it big in the market this off-season.
In addition to hitters such as Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Phillies are in need of at least one more proven veteran starting pitcher for the rotation if they wish to contend in the 2019 season.
One name now being connected to the club is that of Charlie Morton. The Phillies obtained the right-hander from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a December 2015 trade for low-level prospect pitcher David Whitehead.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, Morton made just four April starts in the 2016 season. He suffered a torn left hamstring during his April 23 start in Milwaukee while running to first base on a sacrifice bunt attempt, and was done for the season.
For the $8 million paid to Morton that year the Phillies received 17.1 innings. He allowed 15 hits, just one of those a home run, with a 19/8 K:BB ratio over the four outings.
The team and Morton had a mutual $9.5 million option for the 2017 season, but the Phillies declined, reportedly against the opinion of some on the coaching staff, and instead paid him a $1 million buyout. He then became a free agent, signed with the Houston Astros, and became one of the American League’s most consistent starters over the last two seasons.
During the Astros run to the 2017 World Series championship, Morton made a half-dozen postseason appearances. In the title-clincher against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Morton was called upon to provide four innings in relief and was on the mound for the final out.
Morton will turn 35-years-old in just over a week. With the Phillies supposedly looking at starting pitching options, the MLB Trade Rumors site has listed them as their choice to bring back Morton in free agency. MLBTR predicts a two-year, $32 million deal.
Per Tim Dierkes of MLBTR, the Phillies and Washington Nationals might end up as the leading contenders for his services:
“Morton will entertain many two- or even three-year offers on the open market, especially unencumbered by a QO. If he doesn’t return to the Astros, Morton has cited proximity to his wife’s family in Delaware as a major factor. That could put the Phillies and Nationals as frontrunners.”
Among the other starting pitchers who the Phillies could look at signing in free agency are Boston Red Sox postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi, lefty Patrick Corbin, righty Dallas Keuchel, and former Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ.
The 2019 Phillies pitching rotation will include Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. That would leave Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin battling youngsters such as Enyel De Los Santos for two spots in the spring should the club successfully land a starting pitcher via free agency or trade.
PHILLIES NATION HOT STOVE REPORTS:
- Phillies clear roster space by outrighting Pedro Florimon
- The worst-case scenario for the Phillies this off-season would be bleak
- Phillies will not be alone in pursuing Harper and Machado
- Outfielder A.J. Pollock could be another Phillies free agent target
- As with Harper, Phillies given the best odds of signing Machado
- Phillies open the off-season with the best odds to sign Bryce Harper
- Reality of the Phillies financial situation should play into off-season plans