Hidden Vigorish

Detailed Analysis of The Pittsburgh Pirates

Pirates Extend Charlie Morton, Sign Free Agent Edinson Volquez

The Pirates had a busy Day 3 of the 2013 Winter Meetings as Charlie Morton was signed to a 3 year contract extension and free agent starting pitcher Edinson Volquez was inked to a 1 year contract. All told, the Pirates committed $26 million today for starting pitching.

The Hidden Vigorish on the Morton extension:
Charlie Morton received a 3 year / $21 million contract extension with a club option for a 4th year in 2017. This represents the largest contract for a pitcher in Pirates history. However, this is still really great value for Morton. A number of lesser pitchers such as Jason Vargas and Phil Hughes raked in bigger paydays as free agents this offseason. Had Morton not been extended and reached free agency he would have likely been out of the Pirates price range. What I most like about this deal is that the Pirates will reap the prime years from a player they spent so much time and resources in cultivating. Charlie Morton has reinvented himself as an extreme ground ball pitcher under the tutelage of Jim Benedict and Ray Searage. Morton has become an effective pitcher over the last three years. He posted a FIP of 3.77 in 2011. In 2013 he posted 3.60 FIP in 20 starts after returning from Tommy John surgery in 2012. He appears to have recovered fine already, and most pitchers don’t fully regain their form until the second year after undergoing Tommy John surgery. There is still upside to Charlie Morton. These next few years are likely to be the best of his career. It just seems right that the Pirates will get the best years of Ground Chuck after all the work the organization has done to turn him into a decent starting pitcher.

The Hidden Vigorish on the Volquez signing:
Edinson Volquez was signed by the Bucs to a $5 million / 1 year contract. I understand what the Pirates see in Edinson Volquez. He has decent ground ball and strike out rates. But his control is really bad. Last year he had a 4.07 BB/9. His career BB/9 is 4.75. How bad is that? Well, the pitcher with the worst BB/9 among qualified starting pitchers last season was Jeff Locke at 4.55. In addition to the trouble with free passes, Volquez also has issues keeping the ball in the yard. And he can’t blame the ballpark for his troubles with the long ball as he has pitched most of the past two seasons at one of the most pitcher friendly parks in all of baseball. I’m sure the Pirates see Edinson Volquez as another undervalued pitcher with a lot of talent that they can fix. I’m less enthused, but I said some of the same things last year about Francisco Liriano.

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