Is Brandon Morrow part of Toronto’s future?*

If only we could get more of this version of Brandon Morrow.

Two days before Christmas in 2009, Brandon Morrow was traded to the Blue Jays for reliever Brandon League and outfield prospect Johermyn Chavez.

At the time it was hailed as a slam dunk, complete win of a trade for the Jays. They had unloaded a frustratingly inconsistent reliever with electric stuff and a seemingly weak mental makeup in League, for an equally electric, former first round draft pick in Morrow, who the team hoped could become a strong mid-rotation starting pitcher. 

For whatever reason, the Mariners used Morrow primarily as a reliever, and ever since joining the Jays he has been a starting pitcher, at times showing amazing and unhittable stuff and at times  struggling with command and consistency. Through his 295 IP as a starter with the Jays, he has an ERA of 4.64, with an almost 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio (350:123), and a WHIP of 1.39. They are respectable numbers, but an ERA near five is probably not what most people envisioned when they looked long-term at Morrow.

My question is, at what point in his career do we stop thinking that he has more unharnessed potential to unveil and just become comfortable with the pitcher that he currently is, and decide if that’s a player that has a future with a possible contender Toronto Blue Jays squad in the next year or two?

Everyone talks glowingly – and rightfully so – about Brandon Morrow’s stuff and his potential. But, while he still likely has his prime years ahead of him, this isn’t a fresh-faced rookie whose early career inconsistencies can be blamed on a lack of seasoning.

Morrow has been in the big leagues for parts of five seasons now and at 27 years of age, while we all would still love to see him make leaps and bounds forwards, maybe this is quite simply who Morrow is destined to be? Maybe his career arc will simply be that of someone who on nights he is on can baffle hitters and excite fans, but on nights when he is off can be in for an arduous night?

While we’re all hoping the years ahead see Morrow develop into the shutdown ace his stuff gives him the potential to be, perhaps that’s now an unrealistic bar to set, or maybe it always has been?

It could very well be that he’s simply a guy that has a lack of consistency, who despite great stuff, gives up too many walks, and grooves too many fastballs to ever end up being a consistent top-of-rotation guy.

So is Morrow, as he currently has pitched over the past two years, someone who should be given a pass into the starting five for the forseeable future? With young pitchers like Drabek and Alvarez moving their way into the picture to join established veterans like Romero and any other potential free agent signings down the road, it’s hard to say.

Would you want Brandon League back, if given a 'do over'?

Put it this way … Let’s go back to that trade in 2009. At the time, I – and I think most other Blue Jays fans – loved it. It was definitely time to cut ties with League and adding Morrow was an exciting move. If you could swap those players back right now, in September 2011, would you want League instead of Morrow? Personally, I wouldn’t, but that’s more so due to my dislike of League than it is anything to do with either of their performances. It’s hard to argue with what League did this year though, putting up an All-Star campaign and giving Seattle a reliable late innings option in the bullpen (something the Jays certainly could have used this year).

That being said, it’s hard to truly say Toronto won or lost that trade, this early into it, as League could easily regress next year and Morrow could be more effective, it’s really tough to say.

I know Morrow can and will have better seasons than he is currently having in 2011, but I think people might need to temper their expectations a bit if they expect, at 27 years of age, that he’s still likely to develop into a top-end ace.

* Just as a little disclaimer: While I wrote this post after tonight’s game, I had the idea for the blog post before Morrow got beat around tonight by the Red Sox. I just didn’t want this to seem like I’m being too results-oriented because of Morrow’s latest rash of poor outings.

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4 thoughts on “Is Brandon Morrow part of Toronto’s future?*

  1. While it can certainly be frustrating as all get out to watch Morrow pitch sometimes, I’m willing to cut him quite a bit of slack. I know the ERA is ugly, but if you look at in terms of FIP, Morrow is one of the best starters in the AL.

    That doesn’t change the on-field results we’ve seen so far this year but, if you believe the statisticians — and I do — FIP is a much better predictor of how a pitcher will perform in the future than most other stats. So the fact that Morrow leads the Jays and is 13th in the AL among starters in terms of FIP, well, that gives me hope.

    • Yeah you are right. While I will admit to not having looked at those numbers before writing this, my thoughts were less with Morrow’s physical talents as a pitcher as they were with the fact that eventually he’s going to be getting to a point where the Jays will need to decide if he’s a part of the future here and they’ll hold onto him and make a longer-term commitment, a la Ricky Romero, or whether they’ll attempt to flip him for assets, a la Shaun Marcum.

  2. 27 is still young for a pitcher, they typically develop a lot slower than hitters, and Starters are way more rare to find than closers, so wins this by a landslide, no doubt, this is only his second full year as a starter, and he is no doubt a better asset to Toronto than Alverez and to get a arm with more potential than morrow from FA than you will be paying into the 7-10 million range, why bring that on when you have morrow, its too early for this article after 2 years of starting, post this again in 4 years from now and it will be a better discussion.

    • I agree that Morrow is a better option than what they could get from free agency for a similar price. I’m not really suggesting the Jays run Morrow out of town .. I was just looking for opinions as to whether or not people still see him as a young arm that needs to grow into his full potential, or whether people think he has pretty much maxed out at this point and is who he’ll be.

      Thanks for your reply.
      – Cole

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