The Braves opted to bring Charlie Morton back for 2024. (ESPN.com)
St. Louis continues to rebuild its rotation with the signing of free agent Sonny Gray; Detroit has added some rotation depth with Kenta Maeda; and Arizona has filled a hole at third by landing Eugenio Suarez in a trade from Seattle. Here are some other MLB-related stories we’re following…
Early Look at the 2024 World Series Faves
How’s this for an instructive case about how quickly things can change in baseball? Heading into the 2023 season, Texas was +2500 to win the AL pennant and Arizona was +5000 to take home the NL pennant.
Do a bit of math and think about how a $10 wager on either of these events would have turned out. Pretty amazing, huh?
With this in mind, we note that the Atlanta Braves are currently the favourite to win the 2024 World Series, but if this is going to happen, the team will need to supplement their amazing offense with a bit more starting pitching.
Having a healthy Max Fried for the entire season will really help, but the real wild card here may be veteran Charlie Morton. When we last checked in on Morton, he was thriving in Tampa Bay, then wound up doing even better in June, regressing a bit in July, getting hit even harder in August, and finally finishing strong while going undefeated in September.
All told, 2019 was probably his best season ever as he posted a career low 3.05 ERA. The following year was a struggle, but considering it was the Covid-shortened campaign, we can safely ignore it for the most part. In 2021, Morton signed a free agent deal in Atlanta and was huge again, posting a fantastic record while logging heavy innings despite his advanced age (38).
Last year, his record wasn’t as sharp and his ERA rose by exactly one run, yet the Braves gave him another one-year extension, this time with a 2024 club option. And this last year, while Morton’s durability started to show more cracks (remember, this is a dude that once pitched through a broken leg — see video below) and he was again more hittable, his bottom line numbers bounced back enough to convince Atlanta to exercise its option for next season.
Now 40, Morton will return for yet another season with the team that originally drafted him way back in 2002. You could argue the Braves would have been smarter to decline this option and seek cheaper options, but at the very least he’ll offer them an insurance policy as they beat the bushes for more rotation help; best case scenario is he defies Father Time and remains healthy and effective.
Morton’s velocity bounced back a bit last season, so maybe he really does have something left in the tank — assuming he can stay in the lineup this time around, as his injury down the stretch that left him unavailable for the 2023 playoffs really hurt this squad.
Dodgers Eyeing Willy Adames
Not surprisingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers are right behind the Braves at +700 to win the World Series next year, as per odds at FanDuel. These two teams seem to have dominated the MLB landscape in recent years, pretty much becoming what the Yanks and BoSox were for many a season.
One area of concern for the Dodgers is at shortstop, as they really struggled to replace Trea Turner after he bolted to Philly as a free agent last winter. Miguel Rojas acted as Dodgers’ main shortstop, but he couldn’t come close to replacing Turner’s power. Backup options included Chris Taylor, Mookie Betts and a pair of mid-season trade acquisitions in Amed Rosario and Enrique Hernandez.
A more permanent solution could be Milwaukee’s Willy Adames, who is reportedly on the trade market. He’s coming off a down year, but the Dodgers are said to be interested.
A Wire Troll All-Star as recently as 2021, Adames has regressed since, slipping to an OPS+ of 110 last year, before recording a career worst 95 in 2023. This season, he had some success against pitches that usually give him trouble (curves, changeups and split-fingered), so if that trend continues and he bounces back to his usual level against fastballs (plus his 2022 form vs. sliders and cutters), he’s a great bet to recover.
Assuming Adames does wind up in with the Dodgers, the move away from pitcher-friendly American Family Field to a more neutral park will also help spur his recovery.
A Farewell to Adam
One of the reasons why St. Louis is shopping for rotation help is because of Adam Wainwright‘s retirement, and really it’s high time we wished him a fond farewell. Unfortunately, his swan song season left much to be desired as he spent time on the IL and only managed five win over 21 starts, while recording by far his worst ERA ever.
Wainwright was never a huge strikeout pitcher, but his K rate really plummeted over his last two years, dropping to a pathetic 4.9 this season (55 whiffs in 101 IP). As a result, he fell five punchouts shy of matching Jake Peavy for 64th place all-time. In fact, other than wins (Wainwright +48) and BAA (Peavy -.015), these two put up some very similar numbers over their lengthy careers.
We’re happy you reached 200 wins, but Waino, you’ll be missed.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
English rock band Free was active from 1968 to 1973, as is best known for its massive hit “All Right Now,” the single from its third album, Fire and Water, released in 1970. The song reached No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart, and remains an integral component of any classic rock discussion to this day.