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The Phillies Should Bring Back Charlie Morton...

...but only after they decline his option and sign him to a cheaper, one-year deal.

MLB: Washington Nationals at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Last winter, Matt Klentak sat back in his chair upon accepting the Phillies’ general manger’s position and surveyed the landscape of the roster. He looked at his rotation on paper with a critical eye and concluded that the youth and inexperience it contained might be not enough to be competitive over a season’s worth of starts. Scouring the free agent market in search of reinforcements, he found nothing to his liking and turned his attention to the trade market. In came Jeremy Hellickson and the rest is (non-competitive) history.

Judging from the latest batch of news filtering out from the Philly beats, the plan heading into 2017 is more of the same: don’t splurge on a big name, front-of-the-rotation starter on the free agent market. The reason is there isn’t one the team is not interested in committing big dollars (and big years) to any pitcher quite yet. It makes sense. With pitchers like Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vincent Velasquez and Jake Thompson, they have a fine base with which to create a working rotation for now. It’s “ace-less”, but it’s still a enviable place to start.

However, there are concerns. Will Nola’s elbow hold up or explode into shards of ligament, littering the infield? Will Velasquez gain any semblance of pacing with his arsenal? Will Zach Eflin’s knees allow him to stay on the mound? These types of questions will probably force Klentak’s hand yet again and make him look outside the organization to acquire a pitcher who can account for effective innings toward the backside of the rotation.

This is where Charlie Morton fits in. He could be the one the team signs on the cheap in order to lend a hand in pitching in 2017, some of those innings even being effective! There is a still the paperwork of the $9.5 million mutual option that the team possesses that they most certainly will decline, instead opting to give him a $1 million buyout. It’s a pretty simple decision to make: he missed most of the 2016 season with a torn hamstring and simply isn’t worth that kind of investment.

However, that does not mean the team needs to ignore him on the free agent market. Other than the fact that they spent an entire spring training getting to know him, as well as a whole season learning how his body works during his rehabilitation, there are actually several good reasons to make him the top target this offseason. Before you snicker/guffaw/pass out with laughter, hear me out on this.

First, a quick look at his numbers, non-injured years edition:

2011: 58.5 GB%, 3.83 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 4.01 DRA
2012: 62.9 GB%, 3.26 ERA, 3.60 FIP, 3.46 DRA
2014: 55.7 GB%, 3.72 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 3.89 DRA
2015: 57.3 GB%, 4.81 ERA, 4.19 FIP, 4.04 DRA

All of this shows that since he made his famous adjustment into a Roy Halladay-clone*, he’s been pretty effective when healthy. “Effective” certainly is in the eye of the beholder, but there are pitchers being paid lots and lots of clams that have put up roughly the same, if not, numbers as Morton (I’m looking at U, ‘baldo)

*Who had the 6th paragraph in the pool for when I would mention Halladay in a Charlie Morton article? DM me and we’ll take compensation. You’re welcome.

Secondly, “healthy” is the bug-a-boo when it comes to judging Morton.

Sure he hasn’t been the paragon of health. Your first guess was the fact I had to cherry-pick years from which to give you a snapshot of his skills since he’s had so few complete ones. However, he’s a pitcher - getting injured is part of the job! But, if it’s possible, one could argue he’s had injuries that some might actually feel comfortable with him having since they are of the freak variety. A torn hip labrum is the same injury that Chase Utley had and he seems to be perfectly fine after it was taken care of. Tommy John surgery feels inevitable with about 70% of all pitchers these days and it just so happens that the Fates hit Morton’s face on the Tommy John dartboard on their night at the pub. Having a torn hamstring is just bad luck. All in all, since none of those injuries contain the word “shoulder”, it makes a return to effectiveness even more possible.

So how will this all play out? Pretty much the same way it ends with most of the pitchers on the free agent market.

It starts with these words: “If he stays healthy....”

But with Morton, it might actually be true. He’s demonstrated the ability to be a slightly above average pitcher in the National League. He shouldn’t wouldn’t cost much to obtain, especially for the team that just spent all of 2016 paying for his rehabilitation. There truly is a need for him on the team this year, since they have arguably more question marks heading into 2017 in the rotation that they did coming into this season. He’d be pitching in front of a defense that included a shortstop who turned fielded balls into outs at an above average rate. There are a lot of sensible reasons for bringing Morton back into the fold. I’m not advocating a long term deal. At most, a one year deal with incentives seems about right for a pitcher like “Ground Chuck”.

For those looking at a splash in the offseason market, this ain’t it. Those kinds of headlong plunges are probably a year or two away. This kind of move wouldn’t be sexy, but it stands a decent chance of paying off nicely for the team if everything works out.