Padres Editorial: What Role Will Brandon Morrow Play in 2016?

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Credit: UT San Diego
Credit: UT San Diego

Brandon Morrow will return to San Diego in 2016. After a disappointing injury-plagued 2015 season, the San Diego Padres announced on Thursday afternoon that they would be bringing back the right hander on a minor league deal for next season. The deal was first announced on Twitter by San Diego Padres beat writer Corey Brock.

Morrow is coming off a season in which he made only five starts at the beginning of the season, before shoulder issues kept him off the field until his season-ending shoulder impingement surgery in August. Morrow was arguably the Padres best pitcher over the first month of the season prior to his injury, finishing with an ERA of 2.73 in those five starts over a total of 33 innings pitched.

Drafted in the first round of the 2006 draft with the number five overall pick by the Seattle Mariners, Brandon Morrow has never been able to live up to the hype and expectations that followed him to the Major Leagues. Morrow threw just over 100 innings with the Seattle Mariners before being traded to the Blue Jays prior to the 2010. Morrow was plagued by injuries over the course of his five years with the Blue Jays, pitching over 150 innings once during those five seasons (179.1 innings in thirty starts in 2011). Morrow did have two 3+ WAR seasons with the Blue Jays, along with a 2.4 WAR season, but he has been unable to stay healthy for the entirety of a season since 2011.

Credit: AP Photo
Credit: AP Photo

Following another disappointing season with the Blue Jays in 2014, one in which he threw just over 30 innings at the big league level, Morrow became a free agent and began his search for a new home. He found that home in San Diego, but those same injury problems reared their ugly head once again. Morrow was a stabilizing force in the Padres starting staff prior to his injury, and will attempt to regain that spot next season.

Given his injury history, Morrow is being brought back on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Morrow will be given every chance to prove both his health and talent in Spring Training, and could very well find himself on the opening day roster if he has a strong showing. While it would seem Morrow would slot in at the back end of the rotation, perhaps with new addition Drew Pomeranz, it may be more logical for the Padres to use Morrow as a bullpen piece for next year.

Hear me out on this. Given Morrow’s extensive injury history, which has limited his playing time on the field to near nothing the last several years, the Padres should be willing to do whatever it takes to keep Morrow on the field and maximize his value. While Morrow could still be a strong presence in the starting rotation, he could have an even bigger impact in the bullpen. With Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel no longer with the team, and Brandon Maurer possibly moving to the starting rotation, the Padres now have several openings in the back end of the bullpen. The best way to preserve Morrow’s arm, and ensure his positive impact on the team, is to limit his innings, and the strain on his arm, by using him exclusively out of the bullpen. This would keep Morrow to only 60 or 70 innings at most next year, and may be enough to maintain the integrity of his pitching arm.

While the re-signing of Brandon Morrow is a minor transaction for the Padres, it could pay huge dividends if he is able to stay healthy. Obviously, most Padre fans would like to see Morrow return healthy and pitch out of the Padres rotation. While I share that same hope, it also makes a lot of sense for Morrow to pitch out of the bullpen to lessen the short term wear on his often-injured throwing arm. Whether its in the bullpen or in the starting staff, Brandon Morrow could be a huge pitching asset for the Padres in 2016 if he can stay healthy.

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