The Astros began this offseason needing some pitching insurance, especially considering they won’t have Justin Verlander at all in 2021. And while we were wondering about how the team was going to address these needs, a transaction just occurred. On Friday, the Rays decided not to exercise Charlie Morton’s club option, leaving him as a free agent.
That sounds so good for Houston! How about bringing back a guy that was brilliant with the Astros between 2017 and 2018? After all, it was a win-win situation. Why? Well, he certainly revived his career pitching for the squad and help it win its first World Series in history.
There are some things to consider. First, I know Charlie will turn 37 on November 12, but he proved in the postseason he can still pitch at the highest level and certainly at a high level. In fact, he performed to a 3.45 FIP (4.74 ERA), a 2.4 BB/9, and a 9.9 K/9 in 38 innings for the Rays.
Nonetheless, when you see his stats, you might be surprised by his high ERA. Buuut it was partly due to a bad Opening Day start against the Blue Jays, when he surrendered seven hits and six earned runs across four frames.
Second, the truth is Morton has contemplated retiring before. At some point in late-2019 and early-2020, the veteran righty said that if Tampa Bay didn’t exercise his option for 2021, he’d evaluate himself to see whether he has something left in the tank or not.
Third and last, which by the way could be the most problematic, the Rays will probably have the advantage in the race to sign Morton again. They let him go, but might be days away from renegotiating another short deal to 2021 and maybe beyond.
While there might be some red flags in Morton’s performance from 2020 —just like his exit velocity and his K%—, he can be a great signing for the Astros thinking of a short-term solution. Not only Charlie can help relieve the pain in the not-having-JV area, but he also can give the Astros time to keep developing righty Forrest Whitley, their only prospect among the top 100 list.
Right after the Rays declined Morton’s option, he became one of the most attractive, accomplished pitchers on the open market. So let the game begin. Hopefully, the Astros will make a run at him.