Age opening day 2012: 29
Arbitration year: Second
Acquired: Via trade along with Gorkys Hernandez and Jeff Locke from the Braves in exchange for Nate McLouth
Service time: 4 years, 10 days
2012 salary: $2.445 million (avoided arbitration)
Stats: 4.65 ERA, 2-6 record in nine starts, 501/3 innings, 25/11 K/BB ratio, 2 BB/9, 4.5 K/9, 1.45 WHIP
The Tommy John ligament replacement surgery that Morton had in June complicates this case. He didn’t pitch particularly well in nine starts before surgery, but he was pitching with a compromised elbow ligament at the time. His 3.83 ERA in 1712/3 innings in 2011 earned him a $2.445 million salary in 2012.
Comp: Joba Chamberlain, 2012. Chamberlain had Tommy John surgery in June 2011, at a similar point in the season as Morton. He received a $275,000 raise, from $1.4 million in 2011 to $1.675 million, in 2011, his second season of arbitration eligibility. In a similar vein the Jeff Karstens post, this is not an exact comparison – starter vs. reliever – but instructive in that players who miss the second half of one season and the first half of another due to elbow surgery still receive raises in arbitration. Morton’s salary could increase to the $2.6 to $2.8 million range.
Analysis: Morton will not be ready for the major leagues until June 2013 at the earliest, and the Pirates may not want to tender Morton a contract and commit $2.7 million or so to him for half a season.
There is also no guarantee that he will pitch as effectively as he did before the season. The rehabilitation associated with Tommy John surgery can strengthen pitchers and eliminate weaknesses in their deliveries, causing their performance to improve. The Pirates may want to take advantage of that, as well as see what Morton can do when combining a new, more natural arm slot with a healthy hip and elbow. But it often takes pitchers a while to feel comfortable with their command and mechanics after the surgery, meaning Morton may not immediately rediscover his form.
Morton told me he would be open to returning to the Pirates even if they did not offer him arbitration, so that remains a possibility.
-- Video courtesy of MLB.com
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