Charlie Morton is a free agent. On the list of things that don’t make sense baseball-wise in 2020, this has to rank up near the top. Sure, everyone was shocked when the Indians non-tendered Brad Hand. But Hand was a reliever. Morton is a good starting pitcher, one with a noted playoff performance history. Guys like this don’t grow on trees. Yet the Rays cut him loose rather than picking up his $15 million option.

There are a few things that we have to note. First is that Morton is old, as he’ll turn 37 later this month. And his former team, the AL champion Rays, are known for pinching pennies even when the cash is rolling in. Typically, it’s not a big story when the Rays part ways with a veteran – it’s what they do. Finally, Morton has hinted at retirement and likely had little or no trade value due to this.

But if Morton isn’t set in stone on playing in Tampa or retiring, then the Mets should absolutely be interested in him.

The Mets have already extended the Qualifying Offer to Marcus Stroman and have been consistently mentioned by national writers as one of the clubs likely to be in on Trevor Bauer, considered the top starter in free agency. But even if Stroman takes the QO and Bauer goes to the Mets, the club should still be interested in Morton.

Right now, the staff is Jacob deGrom and a lot of question marks. David Peterson had terrific results after starting 2020 as a depth starter at the alternate site. But his peripherals paint a much different picture than his results, making it hard to consider him more than a low-end SP4. Seth Lugo was finally given a chance to start and while not much was proven in his seven outings, it’s not hard to imagine the Mets preferring to utilize him out of the pen. And who knows when Noah Syndergaard will be back on the Citi Field mound.

The question has been if the club should be in the market for two or three starting pitchers this offseason. A hurler with the quality of Morton being available definitely moves the needle towards getting three. And while you always have to be wary of a pitcher at that age, it might work out in favor of the Mets. It’s hard to imagine any club giving Morton more than two years and it’s just as likely to be a one-year contract.

In his last full season in 2019, Morton posted a 6.1 fWAR. This past year he was sidelined for three weeks due to shoulder inflammation and only made nine starts. Still, he posted a 0.9 fWAR when he was healthy. Morton made five starts in September and had an ERA over a full run better than his mark before hitting the IL. Then he made four starts in the playoffs, allowing 6 ER in 20 IP, good for a 2.70 ERA.

Perhaps he’s never 2019 good ever again. But the pitcher he was the last nine starts of 2020 is just fine, thank you. In that span, Morton had a 3.48 ERA with 11 BB and 48 Ks in 41.1 IP. And that’s with facing the Yankees twice, the Astros twice and the Dodgers. It’s not a Bauer season where nine of the 12 teams he faced were below .500 for the year.

It’s tantalizing to think of a rotation of deGrom, Bauer, Stroman, Morton and Peterson. After starting pitching torpedoed the 2020 campaign, that would be a nice quintet to start the regular season. It has the added benefit of not counting on anything from Syndergaard. Morton would be a nice pickup if the Mets were to get him at the salary the Rays declined. And it’s not impossible he’d be available for even fewer dollars than that given the uncertainty of the Covid offseason.

Maybe it’s nothing but champagne dreams to imagine the Mets ending up with three free agent hurlers. It’s still nice that another quality starting pitcher is now on the market. This ups the odds that the Mets don’t have to end up counting on someone like Michael Wacha to provide crucial innings for the club. So, put Morton on your list of pitchers the Mets should target during the hot stove season.

10 comments on “New free agent Charlie Morton becomes a Mets target

  • Mike W

    I would love to sign Charlie Morton for the right price. He would be a solid starter for us.

    I have also read trade rumors of the Mets possibly going after Yu Darvish. I am more wary about that because of his age, money owed and injury history. Yes, 2020 was great for him, but it is a small sample.

    What do you guys think ?

    Maybe there is more shakeup for the Mets than we even think.

  • David Klein

    Morton since 2017 has been the 11th best pitcher in baseball according to fangraphs I’d make a big push even though I think he stays n Florida

  • Metsense

    Morton would be a nice fit for the Mets. deGrom, Stroham, Morton,Peterson and another good free agent starter(like Walker, Tanaka or Odorizzi) would be another tantalizing rotation. If the goal is a division title then don’t count on anything from Syndergaard. Pass on Bauer and put the money into Realmuto. Catcher is the only “real” need .The Mets could win the division with the same 2020 offensive alignment plus Realmuto. The Mets need starting pitcher and Morton should be a target.

    • Steve S.

      Agree!

      I could see the Mets signing Morton for no more than two years, and he might even be had for one year at around $15 million. Stroman at $18.9 million would be OK for one year, but he might get a three-year deal elsewhere. Would you sign him for $15 million/year for three years? I’d rather go with Morton, Walker, and Odorizzi. All three might be had for a total of $35 million/year on 1-3 year contracts.

      Realmuto is going to get five or six years. I would give him that, but many would disagree with the number of years. Springer should also get a five-year deal. These two would take away maybe $45 million/year of Cohen’s dough.

      Backloading and jettisoning Matz, Davis, Gsellman, Heredia, and Rosario would save us a lot of money. Just those five would get around $12 million next year. Trading and releasing them saves money and brings back some relievers and some minor league talent.

  • Jim OMalley

    I see Marcus S taking the qualifying offer and I see Noah S contributing. If we’re talking Morton then Wainwright could enter into the discussion as well.

  • Rae

    Stroman is not taking the QO from the Mets. Hey, at least the Mets will get a draft pick if Stroman leaves. The Mets need to sign or trade for good starting pitching. I have said for the past week Charlie Morton would be a good starter for the Mets to pursue as he comes with no 2nd round draft pick attached if they sign him. The same holds true for Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Mike Minor, and Robbie Ray too. The Mets need to see if Van Wagonen wants to be a scout because the one thing he does real well is get draft picks to sign with the Mets. Brodie is not a GM. and he needs to be removed from that position. His real skill is relating to draft picks, assessing them, and getting them to sign. His two years with the Mets he got every single draft pick to sign. Why not see if he’s amenable to being an advanced scout or something like that? Good job with good money. Changes need to happen with the Mets, and they need a GM so I think Sandy is going to pick someone like Billy Owens who he is very familiar with, and who has worked with Alderson before successfully.. I’d let Jeremy Hefner go, and hire David Cone to be the pithing coach. Hefner was a disaster with the Mets in 2020. Cone is a winner, and he certainly knows how to pitch. I’d rather have Cone over Hefner work with the Mets 2021 pitching staff. Let Stroman leave and take the draft pick. Sign Morton. Odorizzi, and either Paxton, Minor, or Walker. Hire Rich Hill to pitch because he can pitch as either a starter or reliever and both Kilome and Lugo proved that in 2020 they were not starter material. The Mets have Familia, Betances, Brach, Diaz and Lugo with hopefully Rich Hill signing as wire a reliever or a spot starter. They need to sign two lefties so I suggest Jake McGee and Justin Wilson, if not Wilson then maybe Chasen Shreve. Alonso needs to move to 3B as he was a 3B man in HS, and in his early minor league career. Smith stays the everyday 1B man. Trade Rosario, Davis, Megill, and Nimmo to the Indians for Lindor.

    • Mike W

      I would be very wary of trading a lot of talent for Lindor unless he signs a quick extension like Betts did. Who knows what 2021 will look like and it would be a shame if we only had him for one year. The “two year” plan should be, wait until after the 2021 season when the great free agent year of the shortstop starts, when Lindor, Baez, Correa, Seager and Story are all scheduled to be free agents. One of those teams who may lose a great shortstop may want to plan ahead for their next shortstop. That is where Rosario comes in.

    • Bob P

      I don’t know about high school but according to Baseball Reference Alonso’s never played 3rd base in the minors. I don’t think that’s realistic.

      Also I disagree on Stroman. I think there’s a good chance he takes the QO. He will be taking a chance if he doesn’t. After not pitching this past season, in a depressed market and with a QO attached I don’t see him getting big multi year offers. I could be wrong but I think he takes the QO.

      • TJ

        Stroman exudes a great deal of confidence. Taking the QO and betting on himself would be consistent with that mindset. No guarantees and deferring always carries risk, but most would likely the marketplace next winter will have less uncertainty.

  • Edwin e Pena

    Get Morton. Big game pitcher with experience. Would fit in perfect as a number 5 vs the opponents number 5 starter. Degrom, Peterson, Stroman (resign), Lugo (yes at starter is where he is most needed), Morton. Thor comes in midseason and replaces whomever is not performing or someone who is injured. Saving money with Morton vs the likes of Bauer, Darvish, Tanaka, etc, allows to spend big up the middle with Springer, perhaps Realmuto, if not, McCann.
    Do it Cohen ! Oh, by the way, get riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid of BVW along the way. Don’t let the door hit your butt on the way out BVW !

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