Charlie Morton, Pirates agree to 3-year contract extension

Justin K. Aller

The Pirates have locked in Morton for up to three of his free agency years with the new contract.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and starting pitcher Charlie Morton have come to an agreement on a three-year contract extension worth $21 million, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports.

The deal is the largest ever for a pitcher in franchise history. It also contains an option for a fourth year valued at $9.5 million with a $1 million buyout. Morton will make $4 million in 2014, then $8 million in both 2014 and 2016.

Morton, 30, has spent the last five of his six major league seasons with the Pirates. After three years of struggles in the major leagues, Morton broke out in 2011. Despite an ERA of 6.44 and an 882 opponent OPS over June and July, Morton finished the year with a 3.83 ERA and solidified a role in the Pirates' rotation moving forward. Unfortunately, after getting off to a slow start in 2012 he blew out his elbow after just nine starts and required Tommy John surgery

Morton was a key cog in the Pirates' resurgence and playoff appearance in 2013. He returned from surgery June 13, 2013 and turned in a solid five-inning performance, allowing just two runs while striking out five. He would go on to make 19 more starts for the Pirates in 2013 and finished with a career-best 3.26 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Morton made one start in the postseason against the Cardinals, allowing two runs in 5⅔ innings.

The Pirates would have faced losing Morton after 2014 had they not signed him to an extension. He had just one year of team control remaining before becoming a free agent. Had he reached that, his price may have shot up in value with pitchers receiving big contracts this offseason. If he had another nice season, he may have received somewhere closer to the $49 million Ricky Nolasco got from the Twins this offseason.

Morton will rejoin Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole, Wandy Rodriguez and Jeff Locke in the Pirates rotation in 2014. The team is still hoping to re-sign A.J. Burnett, as well.

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