Posted by: Asher Roth | December 24, 2009

To-Morrow, the Jays may have a new starter

I know, I know. Clever title, right?

By now, you probably know that the Blue Jays and Mariners swapped Brandons on Wednesday, with the Jays acquiring Morrow from the M’s for League and prospect Johermyn Chavez.

Now, call me an optimist, and a cautious one at that, but it appears that in the short term, the Jays got the edge in this deal. Brandon League has had countless chances to prove his worth in the Jays pen, and each year that he is given an opening day roster spot, he either finds himself injured, or inconsistent. This past season was his first full season spent on the Jays roster (meaning he missed no time to injury, and was not demoted), and the results were less than impressive. 72 hits allowed in almost 75 innings, with a mediocre 4.58 ERA. His 21 walks and 76 Ks was an improved statistic from his past, when he tended to get himself into wildness-induced jams, but get out of them.

Yes, these numbers could have been worse, but consider that other arms in the Jays pen, like Shawn Camp, had better numbers. For a former top-prospect, League has been alright, but he never became the starter or closer the Jays dreamed he could be, and he has not thrived in high-pressure spots; even as a set-up man.

Morrow, on the other hand, is a year younger than League, he still has very real starter potential, and he’s proven to be a more than competent hockey player as well. All jokes aside, though, he’s got experience and has proven that he can succeed at the major league level. In 2008, he allowed only 40 hits in almost 65 innings, with a nifty 3.38 ERA. This past season he struggled with his control, but he attributes this to having an undefined role on the team. He said that being switched between a starter and reliever in the last two years has been detrimental to his development.

Now, we can say that he was just making excuses, but it raises a point that starting and relieving are very different roles. Starters are forced to use more pitches, while relievers, especially ones with a 98MPH fastball like Morrow, are discouraged from pitching as much as they are asked to over-power hitters. Having this role, then being asked to start (and having his off-speed pitches perfected), and being switched back and forth is a tough spot to be in.

In terms of the straight up win/loss of this trade, the play of each of these guys will clearly answer that question. League and Morrow are similar players, in that they can blast heat past you, yet lean more towards ground-ball inducers than strikeout specialists. Both were high prospects who have reached their mid-twenties and their teams have been waiting for them to break out. Perhaps a change of scenery for each guy will benefit everyone here. Personally, I think Morrow has more upside.

We also can’t forget here that the Jays also coughed up Johermyn Chavez, a 20-year-old outfielder who smacked 21 homers in single-A last year. To those wondering “WHAT THE HECK IS A REBUILDING (sorry, BUILDING) TEAM DOING COUGHING UP PROSPECTS???”, let’s not forget that Vernon Wells isn’t going anywhere for the next few years, and Travis Snider and Adam Lind are expected to be around for a good long while.

Let’s also not forget that the Jays need pitching right now. The starting rotation, minus the best pitcher in baseball, is shaping up to contain names like Romero, Marcum, Richmond, Cecil, Rzepczynski, Mills… good names, but not exactly the kind of rotation that is going to be successful this coming season. In Morrow, they acquire a guy who is hungry to prove that he can start – now. But, he’s not being handed the job on a silver platter, and there is nothing wrong with going into spring training with a bunch of guys who are hungry to land starting jobs. It only means that nobody can afford to slack off.

So here we go, folks. After all the “optimism” generated by acquiring such prestigious personalities to the Jays like Buck, Gonzalez, Gathright and Henn, the Jays have a young, hungry pitcher with solid stuff that his old team was reluctant to part with. Just hearing the two GMs involved discuss the trade generated optimism to me. While double-A compares Morrow to A.J. Burnett, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik was quoted saying: “As we walked through this, it was difficult to give up a very talented young pitcher like a Brandon Morrow. We do feel that Brandon is going to be a very successful big league pitcher.”

While I think the Jays won this deal, what do you, our fine readers, think? Did the Jays give up on Brandon League too soon? Or do you think (like I do) that they got tremendous return for a top prospect that has proven time and time again that he is not going to live up to his hype?

I suppose we’ll find out in the Morrow…

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Responses

  1. Asher, great piece. I feel as though a change up will be good for both Brandons, and both will probably start off the season well. It’s all about whether or not Morrow will stay injury-free, and that will tell if the deal was won by the Blue Birds

  2. Pitcher with (almost) a hockey name > four-eyed pitcher with glasses.

    Seattle may not have had space for Morrow in their revamped rotation (he probably would have fought for the 5th spot) and wanted a pitcher who is set as a reliever rather than an unhappy floater.

  3. i just saw the blue jays rap, i love that shit! Bang Bang Bang! i wont be the fuckin raptors! vernon and hill, your my only hope!


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