On Saturday morning, the Philadelphia Phillies announced they have plucked veteran pitcher Charlie Morton from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for minor-league pitcher David Whitehead.
The 32-year-old had hip surgery in September last year and did not return to play for the Pirates until May. He went 9-9 with an ERA of 4.81 ERA in 23 starts and 129 innings after returning. He won six of his first seven starts in 2015, but struggled after the All-Star break, going 3-7 with just a 5.81 ERA in the second half.
There is not a big financial commitment to Morton's trade for the Phillies as he is owed $8 million next year. He also carries a $9.5 million mutual option for 2017 along with a $1 million buyout.
David Whitehead, 23, was the Philadelphia's 34th round draft pick two seasons ago. He spent 2015 at high-Class A and had a 4.91 ERA with a 94/51 K/BB in a total of 135 2/3 innings.
Morton joins Jeremy Hellickson as the second veteran starter signed by the team this offseason. Both of them are expected to bring in a veteran presence to a group of young starters composed of Jerad Eickhoff, Aaron Nola and Adam Morgan. A 23-year-old right-hand pitcher Vincent Velasquez is also supposed to be added by the Phillies to that pack.
The newly minted Phillies pitcher is the second long-time Pirates player to leave the team recently. Last week, Pittsburgh also sent the second baseman Neil Walker to the New York Mets in return for pitcher Jon Niese.
Apart from Morton, Philadelphia has also made another addition to their bullpen by signing former Angels relief pitcher Ernesto Frieri to a minor-league contract, a source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com.
The 30-year-old has played for four teams during his seven-year in the league. He had an excellent run early in his career as a setup man with the San Diego Padres, posting an ERA of 2.33 in a total of 105 appearances from 2009 to 2012.
Following a mid-season trade to the Angels in 2012, he quickly became the team's closer, pitching in 67 games and saving 23 while managing to maintain a 2.32 ERA. The next year, he saved 37 games and saw his ERA balloon to 3.80. The Angels then sent him to Pittsburgh last year in a so-called "change of scenery deal" for Jason Grilli. He eventually signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays, where he delivered a 4.63 ERA in 22 games.
It appears that the Phillies front office has been busy acquiring relievers this offseason. Aside from Frieri, the team also signed pitcher David Hernandez, left-hander James Russell, Dan Otero, A.J. Achter, Michael Mariot and Daniel Stumpf.