Charlie Morton: A Rays legend... but replaceable

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays do not value sentiment in dollars and cents. They didn't when they signed Charlie Morton in the 2018 offseason. Signing a World Series champion pitcher with postseason moments might seem sentimental, but Morton was a pitcher who put together two career years whose free agent value was depressed by age and a willingness to play near his home in Florida.

Morton put together a third career year in a row in 2019, and postseason heroics in both 2019 and 2020 will keep Morton in hearts of fans for a long time. However, when reacting to Morton's signing with the Braves, these fans seem to be speaking with those very hearts instead of their heads. Morton is a fine player, but this is not a devastating loss in terms of player value... this might not even be a loss.

The Rays are rich in prospect talent, especially at starting pitcher. Brendan McKay dazzled for 5 perfect innings for his big league debut in 2019 and still commands Top 100 rankings from evaluators. Injuries kept him out of the abbreviated 2020 season and may even cost him Spring Training and the early weeks of the season, but McKay is in the Rays plans for 2021. McKay need only to tap into a fraction of his potential to replace Morton's production over the course of a season. In 174 minor league innings, McKay has an unthinkable 1.78 ERA. Maintaining that production in the majors would be a tall task, but expecting a upper-to-mid 3s ERA in just over 100 innings is a reasonable ask.

McKay is not the only Top 100 prospect who is considered major league ready in the Rays system. Shane McClanahan contributed to the Rays postseason effort with innings in low leverage, but to even get these opportunities demonstrates the Rays organization feels he's ready for an MLB role in 2021. The numbers are less reassuring for McClanahan (an 8.31 postseason ERA, with a respectable but not eye popping 3.17 career minor league ERA), but his tools have already earned him a vote of confidence from the organization. Fans should consider following suit.

Oft-injured Brent Honeywell remains talented, but lack of durability will shy away most fans from counting on his contributions. The system also offers depth with Michael Plassmeyer, a lower velocity lefty who fits the the mold of Ryan Yarbrough and Josh Fleming. Kenny Rosenberg and Brian Shaffer were teammates of Josh Fleming in AA Montgomery in 2019, and will likely be candidates for the Durham shuttle.

Ultimately, the Rays got to the 2020 World Series by trusting their farm system and being smart in Free Agency. There is clear MLB ready talent in place to slide into Morton's spot in the rotation. Fans should trust the organization and the new kids to keep the team winning... unless they trade Snell, then we riot.

This post was written by a member of the DRaysBay community and does not necessarily express the views or opinions of DRaysBay staff.