Just when you thought the world of Toronto could not sink any lower, news came out today that injured Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow may not return this season.
Sportsnet.ca’s Shi Davidi (via Twitter) was the first to report the uncertainty revolving around Morrow’s continued issues with a forearm injury that has kept the right-hander sidelined since coming out early from a May 28th start. ESPN has since confirmed that Morrow is set to undergo further tests on his forearm to try and diagnose what continues to plague the pitcher, reporting that Alex Anthopoulos is uncertain that Morrow will be able to return this season.
While this would seem like a blow to the Blue Jays, given their current state of play and their current situation in the rotation, it is easier to understand Anthopoulos’s decision to back off on Morrow. J.A. Happ is due to return after another rehab start at Buffalo and Esmil Rogers has filled in nicely in the rotation since making the jump from the bullpen. With the Blue Jays currently well out of the playoff picture and Morrow’s injury history, the Blue Jays are being understandable cautious.
In 10 games this season, Morrow posted a 2-3 record with an unsightly 5.63 ERA and a dwindling 7.0 K/9 ratio. His 17% K% is nearly 4% below his previous career low and batters were making contact on 81.7% of swings against Morrow this season, according to Fangraphs.
For his career, Morrow has made 30 starts just once, in 2011, when he threw a career-high 179.1 innings and struck out 203 batters. In 2012, Morrow was decidedly the ace of the staff, posting a 107 record and a sparkling 2.96 ERA. However, he made just 21 starts last season, spending a month and a half of the DL with a strained oblique muscle.
What this latest injury means for Brandon Morrow’s long-term status as a starter remains to be seen. Given his fragility, the Blue Jays may be reluctant to count on him as a long-term asset in the rotation.
However, in the short-term, what it does do is change the schematic of the Blue Jays approach at the trade deadline.
Anthopoulos has indicated that the team has no intention of moving starter Josh Johnson at the deadline, a decision that may now be more concrete than it was a week ago, knowing that the return of Morrow doesn’t fill the void left by a departing Johnson. Still, in sellers’ market where even the most middling rentals are drawing extravagant returns, even a struggling pitcher like Josh Johnson could become an attractive commodity to the right buyer. The Blue Jays may also view him as an insurance piece to Morrow by keeping Johnson at the deadline and making him a qualifying offer this winter.