The Cubs went and got themselves another pitcher Sunday afternoon in reliever Brandon Morrow. Morrow signed a two-year deal (which I like) with an option, and he fits the mold of a strike thrower (which Theo Epstein likes).
Morrow pitched for the Dodgers last year as a setup man and could be the closer with the Cubs. A former starting pitcher with Seattle, Toronto, and San Diego, Morrow has, once could say, “struggled” in the past with injuries. In 7 seasons as a starter, he only threw over 100 innings 3 times, never coming close to 200 innings. As a result, he started relieving in 2016 with the Padres.
He remained healthy all of last year as a reliever in Los Angeles. With the Dodgers, Morrow appeared in 45 games throwing 43.2 IP. He struck out 50 and walked only nine as opponents managed to hit a very thin .192 against him.
In the 2017 NLCS, Theo and company got a close up look at Morrow’s talents as the righty consistently hit the upper 90s on the radar gun. Almost 70% of his pitches find the strike zone. His strikeout rate of 29.4% is impressive, as is his walk rate of 5.3%.
For right now, Morrow slides into the back of the pen as a power arm with plenty of pitching experience, but with a first-time shot at being a closer. In his second year (2008) as pro in Seattle, Morrow saved 10 out of 12 games, six out of eight in 2009, and just two out of three last year. As a result, the Cubs are taking a slight gamble and banking on Morrow’s performance as a reliever the last two years. Whether he is the Cubs full-time closer remains to be seen. He could share that role, only pitch twice a week, or maybe he has to earn it. However, I doubt that Epstein handed Morrow $10-11 million a year to be a setup man.
The Cubs are far from done in filling out their roster. They should be adding at least one or two arms to the bullpen this week, and one will probably be a left-hander. It will interesting to see how those arms fit with Morrow.
Lead Photo courtesy Gary Vazquez—USA Today Sports