Braves ink Morton to 1-yr., $20M extension

September 6th, 2021

ATLANTA -- ’s return to Atlanta has proven successful enough that he and the Braves have already decided to extend the relationship for at least one more season.

The Braves announced on Monday that they have signed Morton to a one-year, $20 million contract that includes a $20 million option for 2023. The option year doesn’t include a buyout.

Morton, 37, has now had contracts totaling $110 million for his career; $65 million of that has been earned at 35 years old and older.

The announcement of the deal comes one day after Morton allowed just two runs over seven innings in the Braves’ win over the Rockies at Coors Field, but the two sides have spent the past few weeks discussing the extension.

As things stand, the Braves' projected rotation for 2022 would include Morton, Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Huascar Ynoa, with Touki Toussaint, Kyle Muller and Kyle Wright top candidates for the final spot. Mike Soroka’s second Achilles surgery will keep him sidelined until at least the second half of next season.   

Morton has gone 13-5 with a 3.47 ERA in 28 starts this season. He has re-established himself as one of the game’s top starters while producing a 2.73 ERA and limiting opponents to a .178 batting average over his past 15 starts dating back to June 17.  His batting average allowed ranks first and his ERA ranks sixth among National League pitchers within this span.

With this success over the past few months, the Braves have gained significant value from the one-year, $15 million contract Morton signed in November. Though the veteran had expressed a desire to continue playing for the Rays and thus remain close to his family residence, which is between St. Petersburg and Sarasota, Atlanta’s deal easily surpassed Tampa Bay’s top offer.

Morton finished third in American League Cy Young Award voting in 2019 after producing a 3.05 ERA for the Rays. Injuries played a part in the 4.74 ERA he posted for Tampa Bay in 2020. 

Morton’s late-career resurgence has come long after the Braves took him in the third round of the 2002 MLB Draft. Atlanta used its first two selections that year on Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann.

Morton debuted for the Braves in 2008 and was traded to the Pirates the following summer in a deal that brought Nate McLouth to Atlanta. Morton posted a 4.39 ERA over seven injury-riddled seasons (142 starts) with Pittsburgh, then made just four starts for the Phillies in '16 because of a hamstring tear.

Morton’s attempt to transform his delivery by mimicking Roy Halladay’s led the Astros to give him a two-year, $14 million contract the following year. The deal proved to be highly beneficial for both sides: The revitalized hurler posted a 3.62 ERA in 2017 and was dominant during the postseason run that gave Houston its World Series title. Morton then showed that season wasn’t a fluke, posting a 3.13 ERA over 30 starts in '18.