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Charlie Morton to Astros: Latest Contract Details, Comments and Reaction

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistNovember 16, 2016

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 23: Charlie Morton #47 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches during the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on April 23, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

After missing most of the 2016 season due to injury, veteran starting pitcher Charlie Morton signed a two-year, $14 million free-agent deal with the Houston Astros on Wednesday. 

The Astros announced the signing, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports revealed the terms.

After Morton spent seven years in the Steel City, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies prior to the 2016 campaign.

He made four starts for the Phillies and went 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, but a torn hamstring suffered in April cost him the remainder of the year.

Morton and the Phillies had a mutual option of $9.5 million for 2017, but Philadelphia declined and instead bought him out for $1 million, per the Associated Press (h/t FoxSports.com).

That made Morton a free agent and a highly attractive option for teams in search of a quality arm at a bargain price.

Morton's career numbers are modest at 46-71 with a 4.54 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in nine seasons with the Atlanta Braves, Pirates and Phillies, but he is just a few seasons removed from some of the best performances of his career.

The 33-year-old righty's 2013 and 2014 seasons in Pittsburgh yielded the most favorable results of his time in the big leagues, as he went 13-16 with a 3.52 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 46 starts over the course of those campaigns.

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He dropped off in 2015, finishing 9-9 with a 4.81 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, but the up-and-down nature of Morton's career suggests he could right the ship at any time.

Morton isn't particularly dynamic and has a career strikeout rate of just 6.3 per nine innings, but he excels at keeping the ball down and in the ballpark with a career ground-ball rate of 55.4 percent, according to FanGraphs.com.

The 2002 third-round pick of the Braves is a good fit for a team with strong defense, so there will be added emphasis on the Astros to support him in that regard.

Morton is far from an ace and is best deployed as a bottom-of-the-rotation arm, but he can be valuable if he proves healthy and is able to eat some innings.

The hamstring injury creates some question marks regarding Morton entering 2017, but it likely brought down his cost as well, which makes him a potential bargain for the upcoming season.

Houston has a strong staff that includes the likes of Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Collin McHugh and Mike Fiers, which puts little pressure on Morton and should allow him to add quality depth to the rotation.

    

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter.

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