Is there a chance that Charlie Morton will not be in the Astros rotation?
Typically, when a team signs a free agent starting pitcher, the intention is to start that pitcher. This may not be true with the Astros signing right-handed pitcher Charlie Morton. You might remember him from his performances with the Pirates and Phillies. But now he is in Houston for two years, for $7 million dollars a year. The question is, where will he pitch on the 2017 squad?
Morton made all of four starts last year with the Phillies, should he automatically be given a starters role? Morton was all over the place yesterday at Fanfest. He said that he liked being able to meet the fans. I had a few seconds conversation with him about coming on Talking Stros some time.
The Astros will obviously use him. They have some money invested in him. Jeff Luhnow has not been willing in the past to take a risk on an injured pitcher, so the Morton move is curious. Morton was shut down last year after tearing a hamstring running out a groundball to first base. He appears to be healthy and ready, but we have to decide between him and Mike Fiers.
A soft grip on the rotation.
Yesterday during the Fan Forum at Fanfest, Hinch described Morton as holding a soft grip on the rotation. With relatively proven success, Fiers may hold the inside track on the rotation. Despite that reaction you just had to that statement, not much went right for the Astros in 2016. Fiers did struggle, but he did rebound to have an 11-8 season with a 4.48 ERA. Management didn’t play around with arbitration, as they agreed to a $3.45 million dollar salary for 2017.
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Back in December, Luhnow said, “Charlie Morton has some really good major league weapons, and if he’s healthy, he’s a top of the rotation MLB-caliber arm.” This was said on MLB Network Radio. Hinch told us on Talking Stros recently that he will go with the hot hand in the lineup. This looks to be the case for the rotation as well.
Coming into spring training, Hinch expects Morton to come to camp expecting to fight for a spot in the rotation. Barring health, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, and Collin McHugh are locks for the rotation. Joseph Musgrove should have a good shot at making the rotation unless they are planning to monitor his innings. Fiers and Morton will have to battle Chris Devenski, Brad Peacock, and David Paulino or Frances Martes for the fifth spot.
Luhnow said yesterday that he doesn’t expect any trades in the 3.5 weeks left before spring training. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be a trade, but they might want to see what they have before committing. The Astros could see a potential right-handed Keuchel in Morton with his career 55.4% groundball percentage. He has had seasons of 60% plus, so maybe Brett Strom can transform him.
First on Morton’s to do list in 2017, he has to impress his new manager this spring. It would be hard to fathom the pay Morton $7 million to be the long man in the bullpen, but they paid Scott Feldman $10 million last year in that role. Whoever has the long-man role in the bullpen will get some starts as well.
***Stats from Fangraphs***