Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Understanding the Morrow dealPosted by Evan Brunell
The Toronto Blue Jays acquired RHP Brandon Morrow from the Seattle Mariners in a bit of a surprise, surrendering major-league reliever Brandon League and minor league outfield prospect Johermyn Chavez.
U.S.S. Mariner seems to agree. Dave Cameron believes that this deal was just an extension of the Cliff Lee trade. It does make sense -- it makes what Seattle gave up for Lee make more sense. It makes the Phillies not shopping Lee around first make more sense.
Frankly, I do think there's something not being said, and it very well could be a completion of the Lee deal, but I can't reason why such a fact would need to be hid. Zduriencik adamantly said the two deals were unconnected, and for the purpose of this article, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. Looking strictly at this trade, then, let's evaluate why Seattle might have made it.
To put it succinctly: to win in 2010.
Lost in the trade is just how good Brandon League is.
League throws a mid-90s fastball and a change up as his two primary pitches, with little else factored in. That arsenal is good enough to induce a career ground ball ratio of 62 percent, which should be gobbled up by the Mariner defense about as well as Pac-Man gobbles up pac-dots. He had a 9.16 K-rate in 2009, trimmed his walk rate to 2.53 and posted a 3.16 xFIP. That's the hallmark of a very valuable reliever who should be a fantastic set up man.
The knock against Morrow seems to be that many view him as a reliever while he agitates to start. His career 5.8 BB/9 doesn't help matters, although his stuff is of high caliber at just age 25. There are also injury concerns with Morrow and while he did struggle with forearm and shoulder issues this past season, the injuries aren't red flags for future troubles.
It was a great move for Toronto to turn League and a minor league prospect into Morrow, who at the very least should be a fine setup man, much like League. (Chavez is a 20-year old who put up pretty good numbers in mid-A ball. You can read more about Chavez here.)
I'm sure other teams attempted to get Morrow, but if Zduriencik was looking for someone who could immediately help Seattle win and do so down the road at a high level, it is difficult to imagine anyone better than League -- at his age, production and salary -- being offered.
On the face of it, this deal looks like a loss for Seattle. The thing is, if Morrow falls into the injury black hole that many -- and most certainly Seattle -- seem to believe he will, this deal might end up a win for Seattle. Relievers like Brandon League are difficult to come by, and he should pay major dividends on the west coast.
Evan Brunell is currently editor of Fire Brand of the American League, a Red Sox blog he began in 2003. He also scores games at Fenway Park for MLB. He was the co-founder and president of MVN, an independent sports media web site.