December 23, 2009 – Toronto Blue Jays acquire Brandon Morrow from the Seattle Mariners for Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez (minors)
It was two years ago. Brandon for Brandon. League for Morrow. It was a trade that was rejoiced by Jays fans, the acquisition of a potentially dominant starter for a disappointing and inconsistent reliever. It was also a trade that was similarly welcomed by Mariners fans, the acquisition of a potentially dominant reliever for a disappointing and inconsistent starter/closer/starter/closer.
Now that two years have passed, do we have a better understanding of who won the deal?
In my opinion there are two ways that we can answer that question, statistically (by strictly looking at the numbers and on-field performance) and logically (by strictly looking at what each team got against what it hoped for). I think, to this point, both methods point to Seattle.
2010 and 2011:
Morrow: 21 – 18, 4.62 ERA, 325.2 IP, 1.33 WHIP, 3.7 BB/9, 10.5 K/9, 2.82 K/BB
League: 10 – 12, 43 saves, 3.14 ERA, 140.1 IP, 1.14 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, 6.5 K/9, 2.73 K/BB
Obviously, since Morrow is a starting pitcher, he has far exceeded League in innings pitched. But League has a far better ERA, much lower WHIP,
and walks far fewer batters. Yes Morrow strikes out substantially more hitters, but League looks to have an edge.
The Jays acquired Morrow to develop into a top of the rotation starter, maybe a number two man behind Romero. So far he has disappointed. Injury, wildness, and inconsistency have plagued the right-hander in each of his two seasons in Toronto. We’ve seen absolute dominance (his masterpiece in August 2010 vs. Tampa) and absolute junk (a clunker against KC in August 2011). There is still a lot to be desired.
On the other hand, Seattle was acquiring a hard-throwing reliever, one who I’m sure the Mariners were hoping could be an effective set-up man. However, an injury to closer David Aardsma opened the door for League to become the full-time 2011 closer, and he jumped at the opportunity, locking down 37 games with a sub-3.00 ERA and an All-Star nod.
So it’s a no-brainer then. Juding purely by numbers, League has been better. Judging purely by logic, League has been better. Therefore Seattle wins the trade.
Not so fast.
Throw in the following on Morrow’s side, and re-evaluate:
– he had to adjust to being named a full time starter after being screwed around by Seattle in years past
– he was placed under an innings cap in both seasons to slowly stretch him out
– he pitches in the ridiculously tough AL East, negatively skewing his numbers in comparison
Add to that the fact that he is 2 years younger than League, and carries intrinsically more value by being a starter (200+ innings in a season) than a reliever (60-70 innings per year), and I think you’ll see that there is a lot of fight left in the Blue Jay.
In other words, League might very well be at the peak of his value now, while Morrow has a long way to go.
So yes, after two years I’ll give it to the Mariners by a nose, but check back next year.
I expect to see a huge smile on the face of Jays fans.