The Yankees are still in the market for one more starting pitcher, and Brian Cashman could easily choose Charlie Morton to fill that void.
Conventional wisdom has the Yankees focused on bringing J.A. Happ back to fill out their starting rotation. There is, however, a distinct possibility his asking price will be too high for Brian Cashman. If it is, expect New York to quickly turn their attention to Charlie Morton.
The two pitchers are at very similar places in their respective careers. Both players are probably looking at their last contract due to their advanced ages. Happ is actually a full year older than Morton. The lefty is already 36 while the veteran right hander is just 35 years old.
Their numbers last season were pretty similar as well. Happ threw over 177 innings with an ERA of 3.65 for the Blue Jays and Yankees. Morton played all of last season in Houston and he contributed 167 innings pitched with an ERA of 3.13 for the Astros.
Happ arguably has a slightly better track record, but it’s pretty obvious that Morton was slightly better in 2018. Curiously, he’s not the player getting the most interest in free agency. At the moment, Tampa Bay and Houston seem to be the only teams really interested in signing him.
Interestingly, Morton is only looking for a one or two-year deal on the open market. He’s made it pretty clear he doesn’t want to pitch forever. It’s highly unlikely he’s going to try to extend his career past the 2020 season.
In sharp contrast, Happ and his representatives are pushing for the longest deal they can reasonably obtain. At the very least, Happ wants to ink a three-year contract that will take him all the way up to his age 39 season. That figures to be a huge stumbling block for the Yankees. They’re willing to give Happ two years at a pretty lucrative salary, but they don’t want to pay him between $15 and $20 million in the third season of his deal. That year could look pretty ugly for the franchise.
The fact that Morton isn’t interested in that third season could really make him attractive to Cashman and the Yankees front office. Even if they believe Happ is slightly better, they could opt for Morton to avoid overcommitting in terms of years. Signing the former Astros starter would preserve a lot of flexibility moving forward for the Yankees.
Expect to see reports linking the Yankees with Morton to start to pop up as the Winter Meetings get going. At the absolute minimum, Cashman will want to enter into negotiations with him to make sure Happ’s asking price doesn’t get out of hand. Don’t be surprised if it’s Morton, not Happ, who ends up in pinstripes next season.