Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Pirates and right-hander Charlie Morton have agreed to a three-year, $21 million contract extension that also includes a team option for 2017.
Morton would have been eligible for free agency next offseason, but now the Pirates will have him under team control for $4 million in 2014, $8 million in both 2015 and 2016, and $9.5 million or a $1 million buyout for 2017.
Pittsburgh acquired Morton from Atlanta in the mid-2009 deal for Nate McLouth and he’s emerged as a solid mid-rotation starter with a 3.75 ERA during the past three seasons. However, the ground-ball machine has also thrown a total of just 338 innings over that three-year span, including making only 20 starts this year and eight starts last year due to Tommy John elbow surgery.
Buying out his first two (and potentially three) years of free agency for a modest $21 million commitment is a smart risk for the Pirates, because if healthy Morton certainly would have been in line for a lot more on the open market next winter.
Cardinals outfielder Dexter Fowler made a critical catch in the eighth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s series finale against the Nationals. With the Cardinals leading 5-1, the Nationals were threatening with runners on first and second with one out against lefty Andrew Miller. Asdrúbal Cabrera worked a full count before serving a 3-2 outside slider to right field. The ball had home run distance, but Fowler tracked it, leaped at the wall, and robbed Cabrera of a three-run home run.
Carlos Martínez relieved Miller, getting Victor Robles to ground out to end the inning. The Cardinals would go on to win 5-1.
The game had playoff implications on both sides. The win bumped the Cardinals’ hold on first place in the NL Central to 2.5 games while the Nationals’ lead over the Cubs and Brewers for the first NL Wild Card shrinks to just one game.
The Nationals will close out their final road trip of the regular season with three games against the Marlins before hosting the Phillies for five games and the Indians for three. The Cardinals, meanwhile, begin their final road trip of the regular season with four against the Cubs followed by three against the Diamondbacks before closing out the season at home with three games versus the Cubs.