Photo: Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos
The Atlanta Braves didn’t make too many flashy moves this past offseason compared to some teams like the San Diego Padres or New York Mets. Other than re-signing Marcell Ozuna, most of the signings the Braves made were veteran players who would provide the team depth to go along with a very young lineup. One such player that was signed who could prove to be a difference-maker is 37-year-old starting pitcher Charlie Morton, who came from the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays and who has bloomed into one of the best and most reliable pitchers in all of baseball late into his career in both the regular and postseason.
The 13 year MLB veteran Morton made his Spring Training debut on Sunday and looked impressive. He pitched three shutout innings with three strikeouts while allowing only two hits, looking anything but 37 years old.
Morton began his career with the Braves, as he was drafted in 2002 from Joel Barlow High School in Redding, CT. He made his debut in 2008 but was traded in the offseason to the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he played until 2015. He was an average starter for the Pirates, but his career took off when he joined the Houston Astros in 2017. That year, he compiled a 14-7 record with a 3.62 earned run average (ERA).
From 2017-2020, Morton went 47-18 with a 3.34 ERA. This stretch also included two All-Star births, finishing 3rd place in AL Cy Young Award voting in 2019, a career-best 240 strikeouts in a single season, four straight playoff appearances, three ALCS appearances, and two World Series appearances. He also won a World Series in 2017 with the Astros. Not a bad list of accomplishments.
This impressive stretch Charlie has had is one of the biggest reasons the Braves made the signing. He has proven over the last four years that he can step up in big moments. Last year during the Rays’ 2020 World Series run, he was 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA. During Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, he pitched four innings of relief and allowed just one run to the mighty Dodgers’ offense, and also picked up the win in that game.
It was obvious last year in the NLCS that a lack of starters hurt the Braves as the series with the Dodgers progressed. Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and other guys like Bryse Wilson stepped up and pitched well, but there wasn’t enough depth overall for the Braves to pull out a win. Had Charlie Morton been on the 2020 team, we might be seeing “Braves 2020 World Series Champions” t-shirts and hats across the state of Georgia.
Having someone with big-game experience like Charlie Morton can be huge for this team. He knows what it’s like to pitch in big games with everything on the line, and has proven over the past few seasons his ability to get the job done. His presence among the pitching staff will be huge as well, as the Braves have a relatively young starting rotation. All of this experience and knowledge can help inspire this young Braves core to up their game to the next level to be able to take home a World Series in 2021.