Maybe the Seattle Mariners were onto something, after all.
Now, it’s not to say that Brandon Morrow‘s time with the Toronto Blue Jays as a starter has been a failure by any means; in fact, you’d only have to look at the 9.3 fWAR he accumulated from 2010-2013 to see that it’s been the opposite.
That said, following the first below replacement level season of his career with a -0.1 fWAR in 2013 and yet another injury-plagued season, it’s become increasingly clear that starting might not be in his future.
It’s not what the team would prefer, of course. GM Alex Anthopoulos has already suggested that the right-hander will be one of the three “locks” for the 2014 rotation, but given the track record and the little confidence that it inspires, you’d have to wonder whether there’s a little bit of posturing going on here … much in the same way that Ricky Romero was the fifth starter until he wasn’t.
Morrow’s role will likely depend heavily on whether the team decides to shed some of its depth in the bullpen and if it’s successful at acquiring some help for the rotation, but even if it weren’t the case and the bluebirds had to make do with the depth they’ve got, is pegging the 29-year-old as a starter even a viable idea in practice?
In some ways, it feels like an “in name only” kind of appointment, done with the full knowledge of the caveat being the right-hander’s certain excursion to the DL in 2014.
And while it doesn’t help to necessarily be pessimistic about his health, the fact is that the chances of Morrow finally making a full slate of starts without missing some time are next to nil based on his previous track record; in that sense, returning him to his first-year roots out of the bullpen might ensure that the team would not only be able to manage his workload better, but that he could potentially give the team better innings.
It’s never just that simple, though.
The biggest wrench to getting Morrow to pitch effectively in relief might be the fact that he’s already made some significant changes to his approach as a starter. Gone are the days of the gaudy strikeout rates (just 7.54 over his last 179 innings from 2012-2013), and in are two years of improved control at sub-3.00 BB/9, and a pitch-to-contact mentality that was supposed to help him go deeper into games.
While that’s all fine and dandy, it’s not exactly the type of high-strikeout type of power arm that the team would be looking for out of the bullpen, yes?
That’s by no means saying that he can’t get back there, but you’d have to imagine that there might be some bumps on the road in going to throwing higher effort, single-inning outings after all this time spent trying hone and conserve his stuff.
Aside from the fact that the team would likely get far more value from a half decent Morrow for half a season as a starter than a good one at a full season in relief, the trouble of the conversion itself might be the biggest deterrent to the move.
Of course, the Blue Jays also don’t want his potential final season with the team to go down the drain as it did in 2013 either …