A handful of teams may be willing to trade away bullpen arms at the upcoming trade deadline. While plenty of options may intrigue the Pittsburgh Pirates, an affordable option may be pitching for arguably the best team in baseball.

Less than a week remains until the annual MLB trade deadline and it’s bound to be an interesting one with teams selling on pieces while others buy in for a chance to make a playoff push. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Pittsburgh Pirates fit in as buyers heading in to the deadline, and could be bound to make some much needed improvements in areas including the bullpen.

While Pirates relievers have been relatively stellar as of late, there is still room for improvement. Some of the top relievers available include Miami Marlins righty AJ Ramos and Philadelphia Phillies reliever Pat Neshek, both of whom we have highlighted in our trade target profiles. (The profile on Ramos, written by Ethan Obstarczyk, can be found here, while Jason Rollison’s profile on Neshek can be seen right here).

While those two pitchers, along with San Diego Padres reliever Brad Hand, are arguably the best bullpen arms available, they will likely come at a higher cost. For my two trade target profiles, I decided to look at a pair of more affordable options, ones that the Pirates wouldn’t have to give up much in exchange for. I highlighted Marlins reliever Dustin McGowan in my first profile, and now I will take a look at Los Angeles Dodgers veteran righty Brandon Morrow.

Profile and performance

The 32-year old Morrow has spent his 11 year MLB career with four different teams including the Seattle Mariners, the team he was drafted by in 2006 with the fifth overall pick in the MLB first year player draft. Morrow has also spent time with the Toronto Blue Jays, San Diego Padres and now the Dodgers.

Morrow began his career as a 22 year old reliever for the Mariners in 2007, sporting a 4.12 ERA in 60 appearances. He made his first start with Seattle in 2008, which began his career as a starter. Morrow became a full time starter in 2010 and struggled in his first two years in that role. However, he found success in 21 starts in 2012, sporing a 2.96 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP along with a 10-7 record.

Morrow has started 113 games throughout his career and has appeared in 272, sporting a 4.11 career ERA, a 3.86 FIP and a 1.33 WHIP.

Throughout his career with the Blue Jays, Morrow battled a good amount of injuries including ones to his shoulder and arm. He has bounced up and down from the minors to the majors throughout the past few years with the Padres and Dodgers, but he has put up some nice numbers in the last two years when he has received the opportunity to pitch at the big league level.

Career-to-date

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Table courtesy of Baseball Reference

The case for Morrow

  • Despite only making 36 appearances the last two years, the numbers for Morrow don’t lie. While making 18 appearances for the Padres last season, Morrow allowed just four runs in 16 innings while striking out eight and walking three. This season, he has been even more impressive, sporting a 1.93 ERA, a 1.17 FIP and a 0.75 WHIP in 18 appearances for the first place Dodgers. Morrow has struck out 23 batters in 18.2 innings and walked just a pair. His 11.1 K/9 rate is beyond impressive and his BB/9 rate of 1.0 is stellar. Despite a promotion at the end of May and a demotion back to the minors at the beginning of June, Morrow has still remained focused on putting together good outings at the major league level.
  • Morrow could fit in well as a long reliever for the Pirates or a middle relief type of pitcher as his experience as a starter could help the Bucs. He has also proven this season that he can eat up innings while showing good control and having the ability to blow by hitters via the strikeout.
  • Morrow has been good against hitters from both sides of the plate, holding lefties to a .038 average and righties to a .239 average.

The case against Morrow

  • Morrow has had his fair share of injury woes. With the Bucs in the midst of a tight race in the National League Central, they may want to attempt to a acquire an arm that is a little bit more of a sure thing like Ramos or Neshek.
  • Given some of Morrow’s inconsistencies throughout his career, it might be a risk to take a shot at acquiring him, despite the low cost it might take to do so. A big question surrounding him would be, which Brandon Morrow will they be getting? The one that struggled in the early years of his career and dealt with injuries, or the one that has shocked people with his performance over the last two seasons in the NL West?

What it might take

It’s not a guaranteed thing that the Dodgers would want to trade away Morrow given his success and their place in the division. However, they could want to deal him in an attempt to get some value in return and replace him with another top notch reliever.

If they do decide to deal him, I’m not sure the Dodgers would ask for much in return. And the Pirates shouldn’t offer up much in return either. I think a mid level prospect could do the trick as Morrow is currently signed to a minor league contract with Los Angeles.

Conclusions

I don’t think a deal for Morrow would necessarily hurt the Pirates. He has proven he can pitch quality innings and could help by bringing a veteran presence in to the clubhouse.

Like McGowan, I feel as if Morrow could be an affordable option for the Pirates. It’s possible they could get outbid for the top relievers, but Morrow could most definitely serve as an underrated gem they can afford to acquire at a cheap price, if the Dodgers are willing to part ways with him.

Photo credit – Flickr Creative Commons

Jose Negron

Jose Negron is a 22 year old journalist from the North Huntingdon area. A recent graduate of California University of Pennsylvania, Jose has written for Rumbunter and Pirates Breakdown for the past year. He is the former Editor in Chief and Sports Editor of Cal U’s campus newspaper, the Cal Times. He also covers high school sports for the Mon Valley Independent and serves as a contributor for Pittsburgh Sporting News, covering the Pirates. During the summer of 2015, he also interned with TribLive Radio, writing for their online blog, helping in the production of various radio shows and even appearing on the air.