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.
Pirates outfielder Starling Marte is back in the lineup after the team reinstated him from the 10-day disabled list on Saturday. Marte served the bare minimum on the DL after making a rapid recovery from the right oblique strain that sidelined him several weeks ago.
Prior to landing on the disabled list, the 29-year-old outfielder was off to a strong start. He slashed a robust .308/.366/.503 with six home runs, 10 stolen bases and an .869 OPS in 175 plate appearances with the team. This is the first time he’s dealt with an oblique issue, and the first DL stint he’s served since he suffered a bout of back tightness in 2016. While he has yet to prove he can bounce back to his pre-injury production levels, his quick recovery bodes well for a successful return to major-league play.
In a corresponding move, outfielder Jose Osuna was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. The move came as somewhat of a surprise, given that the Pirates elected to retain top prospect outfielder Austin Meadows rather than the more established Osuna. Meadows was recalled from Triple-A in the wake of Marte’s injury and has only played seven games at the major league level so far, but he’s already made a strong impression: he went 13-for-29 with three home runs, two stolen bases and five RBI since his call-up on May 18.