LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- While the Pirates have been sorting out one spot in their rotation at the Winter Meetings, the club secured another for the next few years by signing right-hander Charlie Morton to a contract extension.
The club and Morton came to terms on a deal Wednesday that runs through 2016 with a club option for '17. According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who first reported the deal, the three guaranteed years are worth $21 million and the option year is worth $9.5 million.
"His growth -- his development -- has been a big part of our present, and we believe it to be a big part of our future success," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said on Wednesday. "We felt it was a good opportunity and there was a financial common ground we were able to reach."
According to Yahoo, Morton will make $4 million next year, $8 million in 2015 and $8 million in '16, with a $1 million buyout on the option.
Much of the focus this week at the Winter Meetings has been on the future of veteran starter A.J. Burnett, who was still weighing retirement or a return to the Pirates, leaving the Pirates still working on another track to possibly acquire another veteran starter. To that end, FOX Sports reported late Wednesday afternoon that Pittsburgh has reached an agreement with Edinson Volquez at $5 million for one year, although the club has not made an announcement regarding that deal.
For the time being, Morton's signing accounts for the first bit of movement since the management team arrived at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.
"I think everybody involved is pleased," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "As you continue to look for ways to maintain sustainability, you look to your pitching staff first for stability.
"Charlie took big steps forward in many areas this year, and to have him now as one of the staples moving forward I think is good for all of us."
Morton wasn't immediately available for comment.
Morton, 30, went 7-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 20 starts in 2013, his first action back on the mound after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2012. The year before, he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.
Overall, Morton is 26-41 with a 4.49 ERA over 93 starts in five seasons with the Pirates, who acquired him along with fellow starter Jeff Locke from the Braves in June 2009. Morton was drafted by the Braves in the third round of the 2002 First-Year Player Draft.
Before the contract extension, Morton was heading into his last season before free agency, so the deal covers his final arbitration year and at least two years into free agency. The Pirates are banking that Morton's health woes are behind him and he can deliver his true potential.
"The challenge with Charlie has been when he's been healthy he's been very effective," Huntington said. "Unfortunately, the last three or four years he's battled the hip and he's battled the elbow, which gives cause for concern.
"At the same time, he works so hard, he cares so much, he's going to take care of himself. He's battled through two elements of adversity, and he understands how to do that."
Upon returning to the Pirates' rotation in June, Morton went through some struggles early but finished strong. He went 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA in his last 11 starts of the regular season, and he pitched well into the sixth inning of Game 4 of the National League Division Series but took the loss. The Cardinals' Michael Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of a 2-1 Pirates defeat that sent the series back to St. Louis.
The Pirates hope the sinkerballing Morton will continue to develop his repertoire into his 30s, taking his game to the next level in the coming years.
"We feel it's a great deal for both sides," Huntington said. "Charlie obviously gets financial stability for this and maybe future generations, and it allows him to just pitch and do his thing. We get a pitcher that we like and believe has better days coming."
John Schlegel is a reporter for MLB.com.