Charlie Morton didn't get a fair shake in his first -- and potentially only -- season with the Philadelphia Phillies.
The 32-year-old, who the Phillies acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates this past off-season, tore his hamstring running out a ball in a win over the Milwaukee Brewers in late April. This led to him having season-ending surgery on May 2.
In parts of four starts in 2016, Morton went 1-1, with a 4.15 ERA. While that ERA was probably better than what the Phillies ultimately expected Morton to have, both FIP and xFIP suggested he was actually pitching much better than a 4.15 ERA. Morton had a 3.08 FIP and a 3.01 xFIP prior to his season-ending injury, and a 0.4 WAR at the end of April, as opposed to the 0.9 that he had in all of 2015.
Morton's relatively strong start reportedly caught the eye of other teams, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported in May that the Phillies were already getting trade inquires in April on the impending free-agent. Of course, his season-ending injury squashed any chance of him being dealt.
But a strong start to 2015, mixed with the fact that he's conceivably someone that the Phillies could either trade in the summer or offer a qualifying offer to suggest that the Phillies may be smart to attempt to buy low on Morton again this winter.
The Phillies will need to find some arms to throw innings in 2017. Aaron Nola will likely be on an innings limit, assuming he's ready to start the season. While there's a scenario where the Phillies could retain Jeremy Hellickson, it's probably more likely the 2016 Opening Day starter isn't on the team in 2017. Vince Velasquez has an injury history and the Phillies are probably going to be very careful with pushing his innings even if he is healthy and able to go deeper into games in 2017. The rest of the rotation will be very young, and with the exception of Jerad Eickhoff, kind of wild cards.
Matt Klentak will certainly consider plenty of veteran starting pitching options this off-season -- the Phillies will need at least two -- but Morton makes sense because he likely will be very affordable, which could help the Phillies eventually move him for a small return. The Phillies will almost certainly take the $1 million buyout on Morton's $9.5 million option for 2017, but could easily offer him an incentive-laden deal with a base salary around $6 million.
Perhaps another team will ultimately outbid the Phillies, or they will have another similar target in mind, but the idea of trying to retain Morton makes sense.