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Brandon Morrow and the closer that could have been

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

One of the downsides to running a team like the Toronto Blue Jays (or any other team with a tight budget) is that every baseball decision made must also come with heavy considerations towards the financial impact of the move as well. Alex Anthopoulos will once again be reminded of that fact this offseason when he tries to upgrade his team while spending a relatively small amount of money. This results in potential good baseball decisions not being made because it doesn't add up financially (unlike the trade deadline when apparently every possible move didn't add up baseball-wise). In the case of Brandon Morrow and his $10 million 2015 option with a $1 million buyout the best decision for the team would actually be a pretty bad decision for the budget.

It's clear that most people would like to see Morrow remain in a Blue Jays uniform next season, with his high heat and nasty slider either starting in the rotation or coming into the game from the bullpen. The problem is that Anthopoulos and company are pretty well handcuffed by tight financial restrictions meaning they can't blow $10 million on a pitcher who will likely come out of the bullpen. To quote the wise Grant Brisbee, "Spending for relievers rarely works out. That's not a theory, it's not a personal belief. It's somewhere between a truism and a physical law of the universe." While I originally wanted to write about how Brandon Morrow could be a good option for the closer role next year, I realized that actually he can't be a good option because he'd end up being more expensive than the entire core of the 2014 bullpen was. That just won't fly in the current financial climate of the Blue Jays which is a shame for everyone that likes watching the righty pitch.

There's no doubt that Morrow impressed in his brief bullpen stint at the end of 2014, showcasing increased velocity and an effective two-pitch mix that obviously becomes much less sustainable when starting. In fact, when he returned from injury in September he never threw a splitter at all so he was either told to scrap the pitch or he felt more comfortable becoming a straight-up fastball and slider reliever. The signs are there that Morrow could transition fairly seamlessly into a high leverage bullpen role, but unfortunately it's the contract part of the equation that ends up not adding up for the Blue Jays.


Paying Brandon Morrow to be a $10 million reliever is essentially betting he becomes Craig Kimbrel, while praying that he doesn't become any other reliever in the history of baseball that has gotten a huge contract and then absolutely imploded. That's not a bet that a general manager like Anthopoulos can make. Even if the goal was to make the righty a starter again (which is Morrow's plan), the injury risk is huge and doesn't make a ton of sense for a team with a slew of young pitchers waiting for their chance in the spotlight.

It's unfortunate when a likeable player like Morrow ends up in a situation like this, where the only thing keeping him from returning to a team that could use him is money. If healthy, he could be a dominant closer or an overpowering starting pitcher, but he's not going to be either of those things for the Blue Jays. There will be teams lining up to inquire about Morrow when free agency gets underway in a few weeks and a team with money to spend will probably take the risk that Morrow will finally be able to stay healthy for a full year as a starter. There's not more that Blue Jays fans can do other than watch from afar wondering what Morrow could have done in a Toronto uniform in 2015 while muttering that life is unfair.