Phillies free agency target profile: Starting pitcher Charlie Morton

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)
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) /
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The Phillies need a veteran in their rotation and they could look towards a reunion this offseason

The Phillies never got an opportunity to reunite with Cole Hamels after the Chicago Cubs picked up his $20 million option, but there’s another former Phillies starter available on the open market.

Many forget Charlie Morton was one the Phillies, and no one should blame them. A low-key addition for the 2016 season, Morton made only four starts before tearing his hamstring against Milwaukee after two solid starts.

Morton went to sign a two-year deal with Houston, and while there, something clicked. The long-time Pirates starter went from a journeyman to one of the best starters in baseball. He posted a 3.26 ERA in 25 starts in 2016 and his numbers got even better the following season, as his ERA dropped to 3.13.

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 17: Charlie Morton #50 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 17: Charlie Morton #50 of the Houston Astros pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

After making his first All-Star game in 2018, Morton had the best win-loss percentage in baseball, going 15-3 in 30 starts for the Astros.

Posting 29 wins in two seasons came somewhat easy for Morton, playing for a team that scored a league high 5.53 runs per game in 2017.

However, it wasn’t just the wins that improved for Morton when he got to Houston.

Morton started throwing less sinkers and cutters and started dominating with his fastball.

In his first nine seasons with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta Morton threw his slider 45% of the time. He dialed is back to just 41% in 2017 and cut the number significantly, throwing it just 29.1% of the time.

The rate at which Morton threw his fastball also doubled from 2017 and he went from using it just 4.75% of the time in 2015 and ’16 to 29.1% last season.

Morton also mixed in his curveball, throwing it 29.3% of the time in 2018, a slight uptick from the years before.

Morton’s fastball velocity has also been on the rise, averaging 96.6 miles per hour this year.

Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia Phillies /

Philadelphia Phillies

Something in Houston clicked for Morton, similar to what happened with Justin Verlander after being traded from the Tigers.

Can Morton bring the knowledge he gained from Houston along with his in-game abilities and experience back to the Phillies?

Morton will quietly be one of the top names on the free agent market after Houston decided not to offer him a qualifying offer this week. His presence on the open market took an even bigger step forward after Hamels and Clayton Kershaw were retained by their respective teams.

Patrick Corbin will likely be the best starting pitcher available in free agency this year, and while I’d love the Phillies to add him to create a dominant top three with Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta the Phillies are going to put most of their focus and funds towards getting Manny Machado and/or Bryce Harper.

It’s unlikely the Phillies can pick up two superstars this offseason, but they do have the financial capabilities to do so.

If the Phillies can’t reel in Corbin, Morton might be the second-best option on the table. The front office knows him from his one year with the team and Morton grew up in Flemington, New Jersey, 50 miles north of Citizens Bank Park on I-95.

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It’s not the splashiest move the Phillies can make this offseason, but installing Morton as their number three starter and mixing in the young arms around him could be a recipe for success in Philadelphia in 2019.

A two year deal with a third-year option is the most attractive option for Morton.

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