Cubs Agree to Sign Free Agent Reliever Brandon Morrow (UPDATES)

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Cubs Agree to Sign Free Agent Reliever Brandon Morrow (UPDATES)

Chicago Cubs

The short version up front: Today, per multiple reports, the Chicago Cubs have agreed to sign reliever Brandon Morrow to a two-year deal with an option for 2020. The annual value of the deal is reportedly $10 to $11 million, and whether that’s a club option or player option (and any particulars about it) is not yet known.

Let’s assume for the moment that’s a reasonable club option, and let’s assume the AAV report is correct. That’s a great signing for the Cubs, give Morrow’s ability to be dominant, but also his ability to spend a lot of time on the DL. The team doesn’t figure to push too close to the luxury tax cap in 2018, so you’re not as concerned with the number there, but in 2019 – if the Cubs want to be aggressive in that free agent market – it could be pretty dicey. That’s a bridge for another day.

Original post, with updates, follows.

Before he signed with the Rangers to be a starting pitcher, the Chicago Cubs were reportedly targeting lefty Mike Minor to be an option at closer. But Minor wasn’t the only top reliever the Cubs were targeting in that role – there was also breakout Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow, who first popped up in Cubs-related rumors before the playoffs were even over.

From the sound of things, with Minor out of the picture, the Cubs are moving quickly onto Morrow:

We wrote at length about the oft-injured, but quite excellent 33-year-old reliever here, so if you want to get to know him better, there’s where you should start. If you just want the top line 2017 numbers, Morrow posted a 2.06 ERA, a 1.55 FIP, a 29.4% K rate, a 5.3% BB rate, and did not give up a homer in 43.2 innings of work. He was dominant.

Few were better as relievers in 2017, both in results and in legitimate underlying performance to back up those results. The big question with Morrow is whether you’ll get him fully healthy in 2018 and beyond, particularly given how heavily he was used in the postseason. He figures to be looking for a three or four-year deal, probably in that healthy $7 to $9 million annual range. Given the injury history and limited track record of high-level, back-end reliever performance, though – plus a healthy market for relievers – I’m not so sure he’ll get quite that much.

As for whether Morrow would definitively be the Cubs’ closer, I’m not sure they would make that explicit guarantee in the negotiation process. They might instead indicate he’d obviously be in the mix, would clearly get an opportunity, and maybe even add incentives in his contract to that end. As the roster stands now, if Morrow signed up, he’d be your current favorite for the gig.

We’ll see if the Cubs try to lock down Morrow at the Winter Meetings this week. With two or more openings in the bullpen and a scary lack of quality depth, it would be a surprise if the Cubs didn’t land a free agent reliever soon.

UPDATE: The instant update from Jon Heyman:

UPDATE 2: This could get pricey, unless it’s only a two-year deal:

Even if it’s only two years, that’s a really significant AAV for a reliever, even one as good as Morrow. That’s not me saying in advance that this is a bad deal or inappropriate for the market. It’s just a lot, especially given that Mike Minor’s AAV was under $10 million on a three-year deal.

UPDATE 3: … but a higher AAV would sure make a lot of sense if it were only a two-year deal, plus a team option:

We’ll see what the final numbers are, but if it’s in that $10/$11 million range, and only two years? Plus an option? I love it for the Cubs.

UPDATE 4: Just a few confirmations:

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.