Charlie Morton heading to Tampa Bay

Jordan Smith on Dec. 12, 2018

The Houston Astros have lost a key member of the 2017 World Series roster and last year’s historic regular season roster in starting pitcher Charlie Morton.

According to Yahoo Sports MLB columnist Jeff Passan, Morton’s deal with the Rays is a 2-year, $30 million deal. This leaves the Astros with a vacancy in their starting rotation. That’s a fair deal, makes you wonder why the Astros didn’t offer the second year. It was earlier reported that they offered him a one year deal.

In the 2018 season, Morton had a 15-3 record with an ERA of 3.13 according to Baseball-Reference. Morton helped the Astros have the best ERA from their starting rotation in the entire American League. Morton would start all 30 games he appeared in during the season and strike out 201 batters in 167.0 innings of play. Morton would also finish the year with a WHIP of 1.162.

For the Houston Astros, this move now puts them in an interesting predicament for their starting rotation. With three guaranteed pitchers in their rotation still under contract in Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Colin McHugh (who will move from his role in the bullpen back to the starting rotation), Astros GM Jeff Luhnow would like to add another arm for the rotation in this Winter Meetings.

It was the original thought that Morton was either going to retire or come back to play baseball, but had said he would only come back to the Astros if he was to play again. Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reported back on October 19 Morton’s sentiment about wanting to be a part of the Astros again.

“I’d love to keep playing,” Morton said after last night’s game. “I’d love to be an Astro. I’d love to be a part of this again. Ultimately, it’s not really up to me. It’s not solely up to me.”

This move now puts pressure on Luhnow to most likely must re-sign starting pitcher and Cy-Young winner Dallas Keuchel in order to have at least four guaranteed arms in the rotation heading into spring training in February.

For Morton, this move to the Rays would mean that Morton had to feel like he wouldn’t help the Astros get better this season. In talking with fans and other baseball followers, their sentiment about Morton’s decision is the same. If he didn’t feel like he could make the 2019 Astros better with him on the team, he didn’t want to have the ballclub spend money to bring him back. Despite this feeling, fans from around the franchise will miss him and what he has done for the Astros this past couple of seasons.

Stay tuned to my Twitter page @JordanSmithPXP for more info about the Astros Winter Meetings transactions over the next few days, as well as any other news going on with the Houston Astros during the Winter Meetings.

*Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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