Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Look Back - Morrow for League

Right before Christmas 2009 the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays made a straight up one-for-one deal. The Jays sent relief pitcher Brandon League to the coast and got back the middling pitcher Brandon Morrow.

Morrow had started 2009 as the Mariners closer with a solid degree of success. He'd converted his first 6 save opportunities, but then two straight blown saves in May lead to his demotion. The Mariners sent him down to the minors to stretch him out. He would return to the Majors on June 13th and be forced to learn on the job while the Mariners tried to figure out what his role would be.

League made 67 appearances for the Jays in 2009, and would finish the year with a 1.24 WHIP an a K/9 of 9.2. While his role wasn't in question as a bullpen pitcher, his consistency was constantly in question. His much talked about velocity was inconsistent and his control seemed to be in a constant state of flux. He was, however, a good relief option with the kind of raw "stuff" that could lead to him being an impact closer.

Looking back, it seems that the general consensus was that the Mariners won this trade by getting the proven commodity. All the signs were there too, a move to a grass field which would be easier on his body, pitching in one of the largest fields in the league, and on an up and coming team in a weak division.

But, what the Jays got was a potential ace who would begin to work with the same coaching staff that made Roy Halladay, Pat Hentgen and Roger Clemens into Cy Young Award winners and made careers out of the arms of countless others.

Upon Morrow's arrival in Toronto he was said to be a starting pitcher and nothing else. In 2010 he would finish with 178 strikeouts in 146.1 innings and come within one out of a no-hitter against the Tampa Bay Rays. So far this season he's posting similar numbers with 29 strikeouts in 21 innings.

League began this season as Seattle's closer. He would convert his first 9 save opportunities before running into some of the worst luck I've ever seen a closer have. Over the last week he's appeared in 4 games...and lost them all. Last Sunday he entered in an extra innings game and got the loss. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday he would blow three consecutive saves. His four losses in five days appears to be an unmatched level of bad luck. That said, he's shown the ability to get guys out and lock down games in the 9th. Seattle will have a tough decision to make when David Aardsma comes off the DL. Fortunately for League, that's not for awhile.

So is there a clear winner in this trade? To use a fantasy baseball way of logic...the Jays traded away the best PLAYER in the original deal, but got back a prospect with upside. Toronto has made themselves the winner here, with how they've handed Morrow the job and let him find his way. Good closers are tough to find though, and if League can find his winning ways again he'll provide stability to the back of the bullpen.

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