Ken Rosenthal on Charlie Morton possibly retiring at the end of the season

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When the Braves signed 37-year-old Charlie Morton to a one-year deal ahead of the 2021 season, nobody could have imagined that he would still be pitching in Atlanta in 2024 as he approaches 41 years of age.

The 17-year veteran has had an unthinkable career, which coincidently began with the Braves all the way back in 2008. He’s played for five different teams, but his career really didn’t start to take off until he joined the Houston Astros in 2017, helping them to a World Series nearly a full ten years after his MLB debut. The following season, Charlie Morton made his first All-Star Game, which he would do again in 2019 on his way to a top three finish in the AL Cy Young race.

To say Morton has aged like a fine wine doesn’t really do his career justice. He went from an average pitcher over his first 10 years to one of the best pitchers in the game and a postseason legend. In 2021, he would win his second World Series with Atlanta, a place where he has compiled a 41-28 record with a 3.82 ERA over the last four seasons.

Every year, questions about his future arise, but Ken Rosenthal seems to believe 2024 might really be the final ride.

Charlie Morton has always brought up his kids when discussing retirement in the past. He wants to spend more time with them and watch them grow up, as most fathers do. But despite that, a couple of things have seemingly lured him back year after year.

The first has to be the Atlanta Braves organization. Not only does Morton have a chance to compete for a World Series year after year, but the clubhouse dynamic provides an environment he may not be eager to leave. Secondly, prior to this season, he has shown absolutely zero signs of slowing down.

In 2023, Morton posted a 14-12 record with a 3.64 ERA and 10.1 K/9. But beyond the numbers, he was still touching the high-90s with his fastball at times and pairing it with one of the most dominant curveballs in the game. This year, the velocity is down a tick, and it seems even he is noticing a change in his stuff, as Ken Rosenthal notes in his latest piece for The Athletic.

“At 40, Morton said he is unsure of his identity as a pitcher,” Rosenthal writes. “In Pittsburgh, he was a sinkerballer. With Houston, he was a strikeout specialist. Now he doesn’t throw quite as hard and occasionally wonders, ‘Are my strengths still my strengths?’

His curveball still has elite spin, but his average four-seam fastball velocity has declined from 95.5 mph in 2021 to 93.8 this season. At times, in seeking the right balance, he has gotten away from his trademark four-seam fastball/curveball combination and gone more with a two-seam fastball/cutter, east-west mix.”

Through 14 starts, Charlie Morton is 4-4 with a 4.20 ERA. He’s essentially been a league average pitcher for most of the season, flashing his vintage self in an outing from time to time. The drop in velocity has been noticeable, and he’s not striking out as many batters. It’s still more than serviceable work for a guy who is now considered a fourth starter and would even be the fifth if Spencer Strider were healthy.

However, the sense is Charlie Morton has no desire to be just another guy. He doesn’t want to bounce around from team to team just to keep playing. He has other responsibilities and goals at this stage in his life, and it looks as if those may become his top priority at season’s end.

Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire



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