LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Pirates stuck with right-hander Charlie Morton through five up-and-down years that included two separate surgeries. With free agency looming in a year, Morton wanted to repay that loyalty.
Morton agreed to a three-year contract extension on Wednesday that guarantees him at least $21 million.
The deal will pay Morton $4 million in 2014, $8 million in 2015 and $8 million 2016. It includes a $9.5 million team option for 2017 with a $1 million buyout.
There are performance clauses that could nudge Morton's salary to $10 million in the option year. If Morton is traded anytime during the length of the contract, the option becomes mutual.
“You try to do a few things during your baseball career, and one of them is take care of your family,” Morton said by phone. “From the get-go, it was about me being in Pittsburgh. That's what I wanted the whole time.”
Morton, 30, was in his final year of arbitration eligibility. The deal buys out at least his first two seasons of free agency.
This past season, Morton went 7-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 20 starts.
“His growth and development has been a big part of our present and we believe our future success,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “It's a great deal for both sides.”
Morton sat out most of the 2012 season and the first two months of the 2013 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He also had hip surgery in October 2011.
Missing that time means Morton has less mileage on his arm, but it also carries a risk.
“I don't consider myself out of the woods because every season presents new challenges physically,” Morton said. “But I feel better now than ever. I'm in a really good spot.”
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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