Tampa Bay Rays sign Charlie Morton and solidify their rotation
By Austin Reimann
Charlie Morton has signed a 2 year deal worth 30 million with the Tampa Bay Rays. Pairing Morton with Tyler Glasnow and Cy Young award-winning Blake Snell could give the Tampa Bay Rays a dominant trio atop their starting rotation.
With Charlie Morton signing with the Tampa Bay Rays, the 2019 rotation has become a formidable one led by a Cy Young winning ace and three of the hardest throwing starters in the game.
The Rays and Kevin Cash have made it clear that they intend to stick with the opener approach in 2019 debating how many times they will use it each turn through the rotation. With the addition of Morton, logically they would use an “opener” two times.
With the signing of Morton, the Rays could have a possibly dominant starting rotation. We saw the positive results of using an opener in 2018 and by adding a veteran who has won 29 games over the past two seasons, the 2019 rotation could be something really special. Not to mention, we saw how good Tyler Glasnow could really be if he puts a few things together in the coming season just as Blake Snell did prior to winning the Cy Young award.
Lets take a look at what the starting rotation will look like in 2019 with Morton joining Snell and Glasnow…
What Morton Adds
At 2 years and 30M, the Rays have added a reliable veteran who found new life in Houston over the past two years. He brings a veteran presence and playoff experience to a young Rays clubhouse.
They get him at an affordable 15 million per year. Morton automatically becomes the highest paid player on the roster, overtaking Kevin Kiermaier by millions. He isn’t a real innings eater, but the Rays showed last year that they don’t need a true innings eater. With the reported addition, lets take a look at the new Rays rotation.
Over the past two years he has pitched and recorded the last outs in a World Series, won over 29 games and struck out 364 batters across 313.2 innings pitched. He has combined for an ERA+ of 121 as well.
Snell, Morton, and Glasnow in 2018
Blake Snell: 21-5 / 1.89 ERA / 2.94 FIP / 180.2 IP / 11.01 K per 9 / 219 ERA+ / 4.6 fWAR
- LHP, 26
- Cy Young Award, All-Star, career year
Charlie Morton: 15-3 / 3.13 ERA / 3.59 FIP / 167 IP / 10.8 K per 9 / 129 ERA+ / 3.1 fWAR
- RHP, 35
- All-Star, career year
Tyler Glasnow: 2-7 / 4.27 ERA / 4.00 FIP / 111.2 IP / 10.96 K per 9 / 94 ERA+ / .7 fWAR
- RHP, 25
- Appeared in 45 games, made 11 starts ( all with Tampa Bay)
Blake Snell was fantastic winning his first Cy Young award. Charlie Morton was also very good, defying his age and throwing the second most innings in his 11 year career. He found new life in Houston in 2017 and returned to the fountain of youth in 2018. Glasnow was traded to the Rays mid-season in the Chris Archer trade and showed Rays fans and coaches glimpses of just how overpowering the 6’8″ righty could be.
All three starters possess an overpowering combination of pitches. All three are considered power pitchers and all three have a dominant curveball with great spin rates. Lets take a deeper look…
Snell’s Pitches: (%= usage of pitches)
~ <50% = 4 Seam Fastball: 95-97 MPH
~15-20% = Curveball: 80-83 MPH / 2517 Avg RPM
~5-15 % = Slider: 86-89 MPH
~13-23% = Changeup: 87-89 MPH
~ >33% = 4 Seam Fastball: 95-97 MPH
~ >33% = Curveball: 78-80 MPH / 2875 Avg RMP
~ >33% = Sinker: 94-96 MPH
~ >10% = Changeup: 88-89 MPH
~ >10% = Splitter: 84-88 MPH
~ 70% = 4 Seam Fastball: 97+ MPH
~ 20-30% = Curveball: 81-84 MPH / 2753 Avg RPM
~ >5% = Changeup: 92 MPH
~ >5% = Slider: ~87 MPH
All three pitchers rely on their curveballs that possess a 20+ MPH difference from their fastballs. Morton is great at mixing his pitches, something that Glasnow will surely learn from.
Another thing they all have in common is their fantastic spin rate on their curveballs. The average revolutions per minute on each of their curveballs are top of the line.
When talking about left-handed pitchers in the American League, only Tyler Skaggs threw more curveballs and had a better average RPM than Blake Snell. During his time in a Pirates uniform, Glasnow was 5th in the National League in average RPM on his curveballs. In the American League, nobody threw more curves with a better avg. RPM than Charlie Morton.
Each of the three starters possess a fantastic fastball/curveball combination that has the ability to overpower major league hitters. This is going to be fun to watch on a nightly basis.
Statistics provided by Brooks Baseball.
Projections for 2019 (Steamer)
Although Steamer projects Snell to take a step back in 2019, still projects him to be very valuable. They expect Morton to perform similar to what he has over the past two years. Steamer also projects Glasnow to take a step forward and provide the Rays with more value. Lets take a look…
Snell: 3.24 ERA / 189.0 IP / 4.0 fWAR
Morton: 3.51 ERA / 165.0 IP / 3.2 fWAR
Glasnow: 3.92 ERA / 147.0 IP / 2.0 fWAR
When a pitcher has as good of a year as Blake Snell did in 2018, it is reasonable to see a projection that errs on the side of caution. Morton is still be projected to provide the Rays with significant value in 2019. Logically, with the Rays making Glasnow a starter, Steamer projects him to throw a career high number of innings in 2019 and provide the Rays with more value than he has accumulated in his career to date.
Together they are projected to tally almost 10 fWAR and that doesn’t even account for the value that Ryan Yarbrough and Yonny Chirinos will provide in the bulk roles over the course of the year. Not to mention the value that Brent Honeywell and Jose De Leon could bring to the table come mid-season.
The projections for the Rays possible 2019 starting rotation are promising with the addition of Charlie Morton. For comparison, the Red Sox top three starters are projected a total 12.3 fWAR and 6.5 of that is attributed to Chris Sale. It can be argued that Snell’s projection should be more similar to Sale’s but he simply doesn’t have the track record yet. David Price and Nathan Eovaldi are expected to provide at a similar rate to Morton and Glasnow.
Glasnow could very well exceed Steamers expectations in 2019 just as Snell did in 2019. I am very high on the lanky right hander. It is likely that Snell too, will exceed Steamer’s expectations as well and Morton will likely meet his expectations.
What will the rotation look like in 2019…?
It is possible that the Rays choose to go the traditional route and name Snell, Morton, and Glasnow the #1,2, and 3 starters and then use the opener strategy to fill in the backend of the rotation. But, they could also spread the wealth throughout the rotation and start the three flamethrowers at the #1,3,5 slots and use an “opener” on days 2 and 4.
Those aren’t the only two options though. They could stack Snell and Morton at 1 and 2 and then start Glasnow the last day through the rotation, essentially giving them 3 starters atop their rotation. Whatever they choose to do, it is likely to be creative.
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What we do know is that Snell, Morton and Glasnow are some of the hardest throwing starters in baseball with some of the best curveballs in baseball. They could combine to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to their first postseason appearance since 2013. Morton is a great addition to the rotation, adding power, leadership, and reliability to their rotation.