A critical domino that must fall before the Braves get active in free agency this winter is the decision surrounding Charlie Morton. Morton himself has to decide whether he plays another season, and the Braves then have to decide whether to pick up his $20 million option.
Morton has four kids and is set to turn 40-years-old in just 11 days. He proved last year he has plenty of gas left in the tank, but that won’t be the primary factor in his decision to hang it up. In my opinion, his decision is much more difficult than the Braves.
Morton’s option for next year is worth $20 million. Perhaps the Braves could convince him to take a little less to help out the team, but pinching pennies in this situation isn’t the best course of action. The Braves rotation has more questions than answers at the moment, and having Morton back in the fold for one more year would go a long way in stabilizing the situation.
Tim Britton of The Athletic recently gave his contract projections for this offseason’s crop of free agent starting pitchers. Here’s what he had Charlie Morton landing:
Charlie Morton, 40
The comps are pretty simple when you’re a pitcher who signs a lot of short-term deals later in your career.
Morton’s one-year deals with Atlanta have been for $15 million, $20 million and $20 million. He was better last season than the one before his $15 million deal, but he’s also three years older.
Projection: One year, $16 million
Charlie Morton had a topsy turvy 2022 campaign, and 2023 began similarly, but he turned it around and finished with a 3.64 ERA and 10.08 K/9 with a 2.7 fWAR over 30 starts. That production is worth a one-year, $20 million contract. It’s extremely unfortunate he didn’t get to pitch in the postseason, but that could be one of the reasons he decides to return for one more year.
I don’t see Charlie Morton pitching for anyone else other than the Braves in 2024. If Alex Anthopoulos can convince him to take $16 million instead of $20 million, fantastic. But if it is $20 million or nothing, the Braves shouldn’t be playing any games.
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