It seems that there were other things being talked about when the 3-way Doc Halladay trade went down recently, because the Jays have now swapped RP Brandon League (26) and what is termed to be a “solid prospect to balance out the deal” in return for SP/RP Brandon Morrow (25). Alex strikes gold once again. While I enjoy League’s work and do believe he has the stuff to close, the Jays already have Josh Roenicke, Daniel Farquhar, and Tim Collins coming on quickly to take that role. Also, with the depth of the rotation the Jays have, and the injury issues that are lingering, the Jays may want to ensure they have guys that can both start and pitch in relief. Morrow fits that role extremely well and is a high-quality add by Alex “The Great” Anthopoulos. Morrow is a RHP, is 6’3″ and about 190 lbs, and was born in California July 26th 1984.
So, what does Morrow bring to Toronto?
Brandon Morrow was the 5th overall pick by the Mariners in the 2006 draft and made it all the way up to HiA the year he was drafted, ranking 3rd on the Mariners prospect list by Baseball America that year.
His draft year stats of 16 IP, 17 Ks, 2.25 ERA, 1.188 Whip are pretty nice considering the pressure he was under to perform as a high draft choice. The Mariners were so impressed with his stuff, and his spring training in 2007, that he began the year with the club and never looked back.
2007 MLB stats (at 22): 60 GP (0 GS), 63 IP, 66 Ks, 50 BB, 56 HA, 4.12 ERA, 1.674 Whip
His 2007 season showed some cracks since he walked so many batters and got himself into trouble as a result. But overall, having only pitched as high as HiA before this, the stats are were very promising. So promising, in fact , that the Mariners decided to give him a chance to get some starts the following season and extended him a bit more in relief.
2008 MLB Stats (at 23): 45 GP (5 GS), 64.2 IP, 75 Ks, 34 BB, 40 HA, 3.34 ERA, 1.144 Whip
It’s very easy to analyze the progress from 2007 to 2008 that Brandon made, since he pitched very close to the same number of innings in MLB. He cut down his walks, cut down the hits given up, and increased his Ks with a very nice performance in 2008. He also spent some time in the minors and threw 30 IP there for a total of 94 IP. I throw that in there for anyone who is under the belief that quickly increasing IP can lead to injury.
So, why are the Mariners willing to move Morrow? Well 2009 seems to have been a bump in the road, but who can blame Morrow when he’s getting thrown back and forth between starting and relieving?
2009 MLB Stats (24): 26 GP (10 GS), 69.1 IP, 63 Ks, 44 BB, 66 HA, 4.39 ERA, 1.579 Whip
He also had another 10 GS in the minors (AAA), with 55 IP, 40 Ks, and a 3.60 ERA, 1.327 Whip. So overall in 2009, Morrow threw 124 innings, making his ceiling for 2010 about 160-180 depending on whether the Jays want to start him or have him pitch in relief. The argument for having him in relief is that he is lights out there. He hits 100 MPH with his fastball when relieving, but tends to stay below 94 MPH when starting. I say 94 MPH is fine, for a starter, and a starter is far more valuable than a reliever. There is a catch however, in that Morrow is also a diabetic and has to monitor his blood sugar levels during his starts. However, this hasn’t been an issue during his starts with the Mariners, so the Jays can attempt to start him if they so chose.
Morrow’s arsenal: a fastball that can hit 99 to 100 MPH, a hard slider that he throws in the mid-80s, and a hard splitter. The biggest obstacle to his staying a starter has to be the development of his change up, which he hasn’t been able to use as effectively as coaches would like. Here’s an interesting look at his pitch effectiveness from lookoutlanding.
I definitely understand why Morrow is more attractive than League to the Jays. He’s not arbitration eligible, unlike League who is, and is under team control through 2013 versus 2012 for League. Both have had injury issues, but what pitcher doesn’t have issues, and they pretty much cancel each other out in terms of seriousness of injury.
At this point, my question is how does Morrow fit into the Jays plans for 2010? Unlike League who will slide into the setup role in Seattle and set the table as a compliment to RHP David Aardsma (nice duo BTW), Jays management will need to establish clearly how they want to use Morrow. Hopefully they can pick a role and follow the course of that choice, instead of sending him back and forth from the pen to the rotation.
Should they decide on the rotation, and I do believe they will since they’re sending League AND a prospect to the Mariners for him – which would indicate his value is higher as a potential starter, the rotation for 2010 would change significantly, to what I foresee to be:
With that list in mind, what the Morrow acquisition also does for the Jays is give them a lot of starters that they could move with other pieces in return for a SS, CF, or 3B. That does look like a very promising rotation, however, and one that is supplemented by Zach Stewart and Kyle Drabek who won’t be far behind. Starters whose roles may change, or who may be traded as a result of this trade include: Scott Richmond, David Purcey, Jesse Litsch, and Brian Tallet. I could see some teams deciding to take on David Purcey or Jesse Litsch instead of going for a pricey FA. With Jason Marquis getting $15 million over 2 years from the Nationals, the Jays and Alex may be working the phones letting teams know that they have better alternatives. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another deal by the Jays very soon.
My prediction on the prospect to be included is 1B Brian Dopirak, who will lose his role as 1B in AAA due to the addition of Brett Wallace, and doesn’t fit at DH due to the presence of 1B Randy Ruiz and OF Adam Lind. He deserves a shot and would make sense on the Mariners who need a 1B badly and don’t like what’s on the market or its price.
Nice grab once again Alex “The Great”, nice grab.