The Pirates have extended Charlie Morton for three years. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Pirates Give Charlie Morton a Three Year Extension


The Pirates have extended Charlie Morton for three years. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Pirates have extended Charlie Morton for three years. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Pittsburgh Pirates have given Charlie Morton a three year extension that is worth $21 M. The deal could be worth up to $30 M, as Morton has an option for a fourth season. The contract breaks down as follows:

2014: $4 M

2015: $8 M

2016: $8 M

2017: $9.5 M + $500,000 in potential incentives ($1 M buyout)

If Morton is traded, the club option turns into a mutual option, although Morton would forfeit the buyout if he declined that option.

Earlier in the off-season I wrote about how Morton is an under-rated pitcher who compares to Brandon Webb and Derek Lowe due to his extreme ground ball ratios. I suggested in that article that they give him a three year extension, although my estimates on the cost were a little high, coming right after Tim Lincecum’s deal inflated expectations for the market.

Morton would have been a free agent after the 2014 season, so this buys out control of his first three free agent years. The Pirates are getting a fair deal on those years, getting Morton for essentially a three year, $26 M deal if his option is exercised. By comparison, Scott Feldman just received a three year, $30 M deal on the open market. Feldman had a 2.1 WAR over a full season in 2013, while Morton had a 1.3 WAR in just half a season.

The Pirates project to have a lot of young pitching talent coming up in the next few years. They added Gerrit Cole in 2013. Jameson Taillon could join the group in 2014. Tyler Glasnow and Nick Kingham could be next in line in 2015. That potentially sets up for a nice young rotation. However, Francisco Liriano and Wandy Rodriguez are only under team control through the end of the 2014 season, so they will need a pitcher to join that young group beyond 2014. Morton not only gives them a great option to pair with the younger pitchers, but he also provides insurance for the rotation if any of those younger pitchers fail to reach their upside, or get delayed on their way to the majors.

There is some risk involved here due to Morton’s injury history. However, since his transformation to a sinkerball pitcher he has been excellent when healthy. Last year he looked like a strong middle of the rotation starter, and this deal is definitely below market rate for that type of pitcher.

UPDATE 2:48 PM: Bill Brink has the details on the performance bonuses in 2017.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Andrew

    Excellent, now work on a change up.

  • Jared

    I like this move. Very good value for the money. Cost-controlled at a good club value for extra years.

    • piraterican21

      This is a great signing, the pirates obviously hold him in high regards and I do agree with that assessment

  • jaygray007

    Happy! he’s a solid bet for a 2 WAR when healthy, IMO. This contract has a good chance at providing value! Plus, I don’t think I’m alone in really liking Charlie Morton. #electricstuff

    • Chris Hale

      Yeah your right. this was a good risk. The upside is big. If Charlie is 3-5 in your rotation your in good shape.

  • Chris Hale

    Shocked. I would have waited another year. He’s pitched well in the 2nd half of 2013 but it’s not the first time. He’s Never been a consistent starter. This is a significant commitment. I would be willing to bet Charlie’s off season is going very well and his velocity is probably up. Look at the bright side. Morton looked better than Wainwright did coming off TJS

    • Chris Hale

      Sorry ,Would Chuck have been a F.A after tthis season? If so , it was now or never. It is a big gamble

      • emjayinTN

        Chris: I agree. Charlie is the type of guy that you want to do well, and he pitched well after his rehab – a little shaky in Sep, but the overall product was good. My objection to an extension was that he has never validated a good season, and I thought they had at least the first half of the 2014 season to evaluate and pull the trigger. The numbers are fair however, because I thought he would be a possibility for $5 mil in this, his 3rd and last year of Arbitration.

  • jfo1804

    now resign Barmes so we have someone to field all those grounders and not just Lord Have Mercer

  • Scott Skink

    Charlie has finally proved he’s not the head case many thought. Had one of his best games in game 4 of NLDS – actually held the Cards’ LH batters in check. Hard to win when the other guy is pitching a no-no into the 8th though.

    Provided he avoids more parts getting injured, it’s a solid move to extend, especially given team-favorable terms. Name another pitcher whose xFIP has improved every single year over six seasons. Chuck would likely fetch considerably more in the open market.

    • stickyweb

      Great point Scott. I’m sure the Pirates were impressed with Charlie’s focus and mental toughness, coming back from surgery, fighting through some poor starts and finishing the season strong, including the playoffs.

  • deacs

    I get the injury history risk but if you tried to get a guy like Chuck on the market nowadays you’d be paying at least this. I love Cole but I don’t want him being the staff veteran in 2015.

  • deacs

    This is the way to go about things in my opinion. As was discussed 10,000 times already once some players hit the open market the Pirates probably aren’t going to re-sign them (see Pedro). So lock them up now and get them at a bargain.

  • IC Bob

    Great move. Creates some stability in the pitching staff. Congrats to Charlie to. Now he can relax and just focus on pitching.

  • stickyweb

    You know what’s hilarious? If everything goes right, the rotation and heading into 2016, and maybe at the end of 2015, could be Charlie making $8 and four guys making the minimum (Cole, Taillon, Kingham and Glasnow). A very good rotation for $10 mil, less than what 1 starter makes on just about every other team. I love it.

    • deacs

      And if that happens, and it would be awesome if it does, some people would still call Nutting and Co cheap.

      • stickyweb

        True, and just lucky too, how all of those guys fell into his lap.

        • leefoo

          Yeah…lucky. Sure, right.


  • Scott Skink

    Given Charlie has also started to hit a litle (.208 in Aug-Oct), Clint can bat him 8th and bring up Gift Ngoepe as his personal SS.


    Sort of.

    • stickyweb

      Naw, Gift isn’t ready. Just bring Barmes back and bat Charlie (and Cole for that matter) ahead of him.

  • Born4rf

    Much better use of $$ than 3yr/26M to Loney but this shouldn’t affect any other plans. Now a Santana type project is more likely because they don’t need someone to replace Charlie in their 2 projections.

  • leefoo

    If we sign AJ, we have a rotation of AJ, Cole, Frankie, Charley and Wandy. IF (big if) they stay healthy, that ain’t bad.

    What to do with Locke? Does he have any options left?

    Bullpen if not? I still think Jeff can be salvaged.


    • stickyweb

      According to Tim’s 40 man roster/payroll projection, Locke has 2 options remaining. If AJ and Wandy are ready to, Locke’s in AAA to start. If either isn’t there, Locke starts as the #5, unless they sign a FA or someone else beats him out in ST (Cumpton, Pimentel?, but I doubt that would happen)

      • piraterican21

        Btw, Jeff Locke will be fine, I know that he was the poster child for regression last year, but to things to think about,;
        1. First full season
        2. He seems to wear down as the season progresses, no surprise he has a slight build, but he’s gonna be a strong 4/5 pitcher for us or an excellent trade bait mid year

  • deacs

    I think Locke can definitely be salvaged. If he can make some adjustments I don’t see any reason why he can’t be a back end guy or at best a mid rotation. I think the 2nd half was a bit of a disaster but I don’t think the first half was all luck as some would say. I’ll never forget the backlash poor James got when he wrote about how Locke was destined to regress…………

    I expect Wandy’s arm to give out by say June or July and at that point Taillon or Locke can take over.

  • JRIcentral

    I don’t know why, but I have a funny feeling that Morton will be part of a big trade by the Bucs very soon…

    • JRIcentral

      With the Volquez signing, I think it may be more than a funny feeling… :)

  • jamminjoe66

    Great sign. But no Barmas!!!! Hurdle will play his boy toy every game. No position flexibility. Can’t PH, can’t PR. Dead weight. There would be no difference between him & McDonald from last year. Move on already. The only thing more annoying then listening to those idiots wooing in the crowd, is listening to them wooing while watching Barmas trying to impersonate a ML hitter

    • SteveW

      Why would anyone think that Hurdle would play Barmes ahead of Mercer?? Mercer played a lot more than Barmes the second half of the year – and now Mercer has gained some valuable experience while Barmes is getting old. He still can play defense though.

      • jamminjoe66

        6 playoff games Hurdle started his boy toy in 5 of them.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD

    Its been well documented that I was never a fan of Morton – just was never convinced he would live up to his supposed “stuff” (remember Kip Wells?), but he proved me wrong for much of 2013. He pitched very well down the stretch. Still susceptible to the HR, but overall he was very good.

    Now, does one good 1/2 to 3/4 season justify this kind of contract extension? Well, I guess we will have to wait to find out. But, I am optimistic based on what I saw last year.

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