The Tampa Bay Rays are perfectly comfortable putting relief pitchers on the mound to begin games. But the chance to add an All-Star to their patchwork rotation, that was too good to pass up.
Coming off a career-high 30 starts, Charlie Morton reached a $30 million, two-year contract with the Rays, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the contract has not been officially announced.
The 35-year-old Morton was a first-time All-Star last season when he went 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA for Houston.
Morton helped the Astros win their first championship in 2017. He started and won Game 7 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees, then was the winning pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series against the Dodgers with four innings of relief.
Morton's success with the Astros came after a career that had been beset by injuries and inconsistency. He'd undergone Tommy John surgery and was just 46-71 with Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for going to Houston.
The right-hander joins a Rays staff led by AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell.
The Tampa Bay rotation was wrecked by injuries this year, and the team often used relief pitchers as starters in their “opener” strategy on the way to 90 wins.
The Rays' approach became a trend in baseball, especially when teams saw how well it worked. Tampa Bay went 46-38 with traditional starters and was 44-34 when using relievers at the start.
Manager Kevin Cash said earlier this week at the winter meetings that the Rays will employ the strategy again this season.
“I think right now we're discussing internally whether we do it two times through the rotation or three times through the rotation,” Cash said Monday. “But the nice thing is we've got all that information last year and we have a bunch of candidates that we can fill in as a traditional starter if need be.”
Two days later, the math became a little easier with Morton.
A trade of Tanners: Nats send Roark to Reds for Rainey
The Washington Nationals have traded Tanner Roark to the Reds for another right-hander named Tanner, less proven Tanner Rainey.
There have been only a handful of big league players over the years with the first name of Tanner, and this was the first time two of them got traded for each other.
The 32-year-old Roark led the National League in losses last season, going 9-15 with a 4.34 ERA. He is 64-54 in six years, all with Washington.
Washington boosted its rotation last week by signing All-Star Patrick Corbin to a $140 million, six-year contract. He will join a star-studded rotation featuring Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg on a team that 82-80 and finished second in the NL East behind Atlanta.
Roark made $6,475,000 last year and is eligible for arbitration. He can become a free agent after next season.
Rainey, who turns 26 on Christmas Day, made his big league debut last season. He didn't have a decision and posted a 24.43 ERA in eight relief outings for the Reds.