CHICAGO -- After a series of injuries and setbacks over the past two seasons, Brandon Morrow is going to try to give the Cubs the late-inning arm they thought they had signed three winters ago.
On Friday, a source told MLB.com that Morrow agreed to a Minor League contract with the Cubs, giving the team a no-risk, high-reward option for a bullpen that will have jobs open this spring. If Morrow reaches the Majors, he will have a base salary of $1 million (plus incentives).
The Cubs have not confirmed the agreement.
Chicago signed Morrow to a two-year, $21 million contract prior to the 2018 season, and the right-hander went on to post a 1.47 ERA in 35 appearances. But Morrow did not pitch after July 15 that season, and then underwent a right elbow surgery in November. Morrow made it back on a mound last Spring Training, but he encountered multiple setbacks and did not pitch in '19.
Morrow had a nerve decompression procedure in September 2019, and the Cubs opted to pay him a $3 million buyout, rather than picking up a $12 million team option for next season. A Minor League contract for next year gives Morrow the chance to prove he is healthy during Spring Training, but it removes the risk for the Cubs if more health issues arise.
The 35-year-old Morrow has a 3.96 ERA and averaged 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 334 career games in the big leagues. He transitioned to relief full-time in 2016 and has a 2.04 ERA over his last 103 outings ('15-18). In parts of 12 MLB seasons, however, Morrow has landed on the injured list nine times.
The Cubs are in the market for bullpen help this offseason, considering they had a handful of veteran arms (Steve Cishek, Derek Holland, Brandon Kintzler, David Phelps and Pedro Strop) reach free agency. Right now, Craig Kimbrel, Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick and possibly Tyler Chatwood have spots in the 2020 'pen.
So far this offseason, the Cubs have acquired Jharel Cotton (trade with A's), Dan Winkler (one-year MLB contract), CD Pelham (claimed off waivers) and Trevor Megill (Rule 5 Draft) as possible relief candidates. Some other internal options include Brad Wieck, James Norwood, Duane Underwood Jr., Dillon Maples, Alec Mills and Adbert Alzolay.