Understanding the Morrow deal

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.

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It seems like the Mariners didn’t get value for Morrow back in the trade. Given that the Mariners have resident genius Jack Zduriencik at the helm who has made sensational move after sensational move, it’s hard to believe.

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.

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Comments

  1. Matthews said...

    Great write up. League has top tier stuff and is finally gaining some command. He will be a great set up man, maybe even a closer for the M’s. high 90’s fastballs with a ton of sink don’t grow on trees. Plus it’s closer to Hawaii for him.

  2. hans said...

    “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.”

    I think judging who “wins” a deal by what the players do following the trade isn’t all that helpful. Toronto is fully understanding of the risk inherent in acquiring a pitcher with an injury history, but just about all pitchers develop an injury throughout their career so its not as though there is no risk going back the other way in Brandon League (although likely less so due to his personal history and reliever’s workload). Toronto is assuming the risk for a player with “potentially” more value than what they are giving up in League. They may be viewing themselves in a position that if a few things break there way, a WildCard spot could be possible in the near future. League and the minor leaguer simply aren’t going to make that much of a difference in that regard, where Morrow may be able to (or he gets injured and doesn’t). What actually happens from this point forward isn’t really important, rather the rational for the trade should be evaluated.

    Also this highlights that there are more often than not “two” winners in trades once context is taken into consideration, something that seems to go by the wayside when trying to boil everything down to a simply formula for evaluation (WAR or what have you).

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