Pirates sign Charlie Morton to $21 million extension

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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.

Former minor leaguer Aaron Cox, brother-in-law of Mike Trout, dies at 24

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Aaron Cox, until recently a minor leaguer in the Angels’ system, and the brother-in-law of Angels star Mike Trout, has died at the age of 24. The circumstances of Cox’s death are not known. Trout, who is married to Cox’s sister, Jessica, has left the Angels to be with his family and will likely miss the next couple of games.

Cox, like Trout, was a star at Millville High School in New Jersey. He was a few years behind Trout and went on to play at Division II Gannon University, where he pitched a no-hitter. He was drafted by the Angels in the 19th round of the 2015 draft and pitched for three seasons as a reliever in the lower rungs of the Angels system. This season he pitched 11 games for high-A Inland Empire but had recently retired. He had missed the entire 2017 season after being hit in the eye by a line drive during spring training and then getting a 50-game suspension for unauthorized use of a stimulant.

The Angels just released a statement from the Trout and Cox families:

Early this morning our families lost a phenomenal human being. Aaron Cox was a tremendous son, brother, and brother-in-law. He had a deep love for his family and a passionate dedication and commitment to his friends. As our families grieve together, we will also celebrate the memories, the laughter, and the love we each shared with Aaron in the short time we had him. He will forever be at the forefront in the hearts and minds of the Cox and Trout families. We will rely on the love and strength of God first and foremost during this difficult and channeling time, as well as our dear family and friends. We thank you for your thoughts and prayers, and our Lord and Savior for His precious gift of Aaron Joseph.