The Atlanta Braves will soon have to make a decision on picking up Charlie Morton's club option for 2024. We explain the benefits of declining the option, despite the evident value he presents at $20 million.
When do Braves Have to Decide on Team Options?
MLB Teams must decide whether to pick up club options within five days of the World Series.
Charlie Morton is a Good Value at $20 Million
This post is only aimed at highlighting the reasons why the Braves might be interested in declining the option. Most of the narrative has sided with the notion that Morton is too good of a value and a clubhouse presence to pass up for $20 million. We all seem to think that the ball is in Charlie's court. That's probably true.
Charlie Morton a Top Pitcher Since 2018
Since 2018, Morton is 10th in fWAR among starting pitchers.
He has the 16th-best K/9 rate at 10.63.
Morton ranks 16th among qualified pitchers since 2018 in homers per nine, allowing just 0.93 dingers per nine innings.
Since 2018, Morton's 70 wins are behind only Max Scherzer (73) and Gerrit Cole (86).
He's been one of the best pitchers in the game for several years. If you look at the contracts guys like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer got, Morton is a steal.
So, why would the Braves even consider declining Morton's option?
Reasons for Braves to Decline Charlie Morton's Option
Charlie Morton is entering his age 40 season. Even though $20 million is a good deal compared to guys like Scherzer and Verlander who are getting around $40 million per year, it doesn't mean it's the best allocation of resources for the Braves.
Morton is declining. Haven't you seen Frank Thomas on the Total T commercials!? Morton is going to start losing muscle mass and possibly suffering from Low-T starting next season.
Charlie Morton's Signs of Decline in 2023
Morton became a strikeout pitcher in 2017 when he went to the Astros. He struck out 10.0 batters per nine over 146.2 innings that year. If we exclude the 2020 Covid-shortened season in which Morton pitched just 38.0 innings, 2023 was Morton's lowest K/9 since 2017 in Houston. Still good at 10.1, but still his lowest since 2017.
Between 2019 and 2021, Morton's walks per nine were 2.6, 2.5, and 2.8. In 2022 the walks began trending in the wrong direction with 3.3 free passes per nine frames. In 2024, Morton's walks fell off the table, walking 4.6 batters per nine.
In Morton's two All-Star seasons of '18 and '19, he averaged 5.75 innings per start. Last season he averaged 5.44 innings per start.
In 2019, Morton ranked 15th in the MLB with 19 quality starts. In 2021, he ranked seventh in the MLB with 20 quality starts.
In 2023, he finished tied for 46th with 12 quality starts.
How Braves Could Use $20 Million Saved on Charlie Morton
The Atlanta Braves need rotation depth for next year and for the future. Kyle Wright will miss all of 2024 and Max Fried is entering the final year of his contract. There are several quality veteran arms on the free agent market, many of which can be had at a very affordable price tag. There are also some bigger-name, potential frontline pitchers that are younger and could be around the same or less money than Morton's option.
Braves fans can be happy about either decision the Braves make on Morton's option. If they bring him back, he has yet to prove to be a liability (although father time will probably catch up to him soon). Should they choose to move on from Morton, take heart in knowing that Alex Anthopoulos has a plan to address some major holes in the rotation.