Brandon Morrow switching roles … again

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I’ve been impressed with the Mariners’ new regime, as first-year
general manager Jack Zduriencik and company have made some nice moves
at the margins of the roster–focusing primarily on low-cost free
agents and improving the defense–without overhauling things
completely.

The team is 28-30 after losing 101 games last season, but one of my
few criticisms of the Zduriencik front office so far was the decision
to convert Brandon Morrow into a full-time reliever at the age of 24.
However, it sounds like those plans have now been scrapped.

After struggling in the closer role and eventually giving way to David
Aardsma in the ninth inning, Morrow reportedly approached the Mariners
recently about becoming a starter again and the new plan is for the
former University of California ace to build up arm strength back at
Triple-A.

Morrow has started just 15 total games between the majors and minors
since the Mariners made him the fifth overall pick in the 2005 draft,
so he figures to be at Triple-A for a while. However, ultimately giving
a young pitcher with outstanding raw stuff the opportunity to sink or
swim in a 200-inning role before moving him to a 70-inning role is
almost always the right call (see: Chamberlain, Joba).

Through his first 121 appearances, 116 of which have come out of the
bullpen, Morrow has a 4.06 ERA, 161/98 K/BB ratio, and .216 opponents’
batting average in 146 innings. It remains to be seen whether his shaky
control will be any less of a problem working every fifth day for
80-100 pitches rather than every 2-3 days for 15-30 pitches, but it
certainly makes sense to find out.

Assuming that he doesn’t change his mind again next week, of course.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.