Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Brandon Morrow (23) walks off the field after being relieved fourth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

What Brandon Morrow's Health Means To Blue Jays

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos met with the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on Wednesday and addressed a number of issues related to the current ongoing’s of his baseball team. He talked about the Doug Fister trade and the Jays’ situation at second base among other things but what I found most interesting was his update regarding the condition of Jays’ RHP Brandon Morrow.

According to Gregor Chisholm at BlueJays.com, when AA was asked about Morrow he responded with the following:

“There’s definitely strong confidence that Brandon is totally over his issues. The fact that he has thrown multiple bullpen [sessions], thrown a sim game, got up and down. When you do a sim game, you’re throwing three or four innings. He’s completely healthy and completely healed.

I wish Brandon was coming off a year where he had a 2.96 [ERA], 120 innings and he ended the season really well, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he’s in the same place going into Spring Training that he was last year.”

I must admit, my gut reaction was to be cynical. It’s not exactly as though the Blue Jays have the best track record of accurately describing injuries. But in the spirit of optimism (and to partially make up for my lack of enthusiasm over the Dioner Navarro acquisition) I will choose to take Alex’s word on this one.

Why? Because in order to have any hope that 2014 will be successful for the Toronto Blue Jays there’s no other option but to believe that Morrow will return to a strong campaign.

As much talk as there is about all the “new money” in baseball, one thing remains true. Budgets are real. That being said, we have no idea what the Blue Jays true working number will be for next season (and going forward). Many have speculated that number is $150 million, which may be true but I like to believe there is at least a little wiggle room to go higher (or hopefully not) lower if the right deal is put on the table.

However I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume there will be another huge jump in payroll this winter, a la 2012-2013. The Jays already have a hefty amount invested just to maintain the current salaries and with R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle the only two reliable pitchers in next year’s rotation the Jays have serious holes but only so much money to spend on the increasingly ridiculous free agent pitching market.

Trades seemingly come at a cheaper price (at least when you are dealing with teams that you only see in either Interleague or the World Series), which to tangent even further from my point makes me think hope that the Jays could possibly pry Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs for slightly less than what it would take for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who aren’t in the same division but are least in the same league as the Cubbies. MLB Trade Rumors has been keeping an updated post on Samardzija and the Jays, DBacks and Baltimore Orioles appear to be front-runners. David Kaplan at CSN Chicago wrote that according to a source “I don’t see him throwing another pitch in a Cubs uniform. I think it’s 99 percent that he gets moved.” Kaplan also shared insight from a scout who said “I like the guy a lot but the price is really high and I think in the AL he is a No. 3 starter. He doesn’t show me the consistency that I need in a top end guy and to acquire him, Theo and Jed are asking for a top end price. However, pitching is so hard to find that teams will give up a lot betting that his best days are ahead of him.” ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweeted the Cubs were planning to do some “serious listening” when it came to the Shark and Kaplan also mentioned that “as many as eight teams have shown considerable interest” so who knows if Anthopoulos holds the “right mix of players” to obtain Samardzija’s services (or any others starting pitchers that may yet be considered openly available).

So I actually suprisingly found a way to segue back to AA and what this post was supposed to be about, which was an update regarding the health of Morrow. My point is that even if the Blue Jays are able to add very good (or great?) starting pitcher this off-season, and maybe even have enough left-over for a mid-tier or more likely bounce-back candidate, the need for Morrow to regain his former ability remains. If the Blue Jays have serious thoughts of contending in 2014 you would have to think that a rotation of Dickey, Buehrle, an off-season addition and a fully capable Morrow to lead to the starting four, with a plethora of depth to handle to fifth man’s role, spot starts and who knows maybe even some bullpen relief, which could lead to the Blue Jays pushing hard to trade other out-of-option relievers even more at the upcoming Winter Meetings.

This also may also be posturing by Anthopoulos to lessen the blow to the fan base if he only does end up with one starting pitcher (or gasp, none!) this off-season because he probably is quite aware of the need for Morrow to have a bounce-back season himself in 2014 after he struggled to miss bats last year. Kyle Matte already explained here at Jays Journal why we shouldn’t be too quick to tag Morrow with the injury-prone label so I’m hopeful that with a full bill of health he’ll be able to return to at some of his sparkling 2012 form. Just looking quickly at his player page at FanGraphs it’s fairly safe to assume that his HR/FB, HR/9 and LOB% were at unsustainable levels and should regress back to the norm.

Like I said, optimism!

Brenden Kennedy at the Toronto Star provides an excellent recap of the BBWAA Meeting so if you haven’t already more updates on Anthopoulos’ discussion can be found there.

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Tags: Brandon Morrow Jeff Samardzija Toronto Blue Jays

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