For the third season in a row, the Dodgers will be in search of a new primary setup man for closer Kenley Jansen. Brandon Morrow was a pleasant surprise in 2017 but has left as a free agent to join the Chicago Cubs, per multiple reports.
Source: The Chicago Cubs have agreed to terms with free agent RP Brandon Morrow on a two-year deal with an option. @MLBBruceLevine first said they were close. Deal is pending a physical.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 10, 2017
Morrow will have deal with cubs. Expected to be for 10 or 11M a year.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 10, 2017
Brandon Morrow’s deal with #Cubs, if completed, will be two years, $21M, sources tell The Athletic. Morrow would earn $9M in 2018 and $9M in ‘19 with a $3M buyout or $12M vesting option for 2020.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 11, 2017
The deal with the Cubs was finalized on Wednesday.
Morrow was signed to a minor league deal by the Dodgers last winter that included a $1.25 million base salary, and made his way to the big leagues by Memorial Day. He was one of the most effective relief pitchers in the majors in 2017, posting a 2.06 ERA and 1.55 FIP in 45 games while holding opposing batters to just .194/.241/.213.
The right-hander was incredibly effective against left-handed batters too, holding them to just 7-for-56 with no extra-base hits, batting .125/.183/.125.
Things went so well for Morrow last season that he avoided time on the disabled list for the first time since 2010.
Morrow allowed no home runs in 43⅔ innings during the regular season. He did allow three long balls in just 13⅔ innings during the postseason, with two coming in Game 5 of the World Series, a game he talked himself into appearing for the only time he pitched on three consecutive days all season.
The Dodgers played 15 postseason games and Morrow appeared in 14 of them, including pitching in all seven World Series games, tying major league records with both numbers.
“All things equal I’d probably be going back to the Dodgers,” Morrow said in early November in an interview with MLB Network Radio. Though it appears two years at $20 million or more, plus an option, was a number the Dodgers weren’t willing to match.
There is also a decent chance the 33-year-old Morrow could be the closer in Chicago, something that wouldn’t be the case in Los Angeles. Though in that same November interview Morrow didn’t think pitching the ninth inning was a priority.
“I don’t care about closing. Throwing from the sixth through eighth inning, I’m cool with pitching wherever,” he said. “I’m looking for the best fit in the next few weeks.”
The Dodgers were in a relatively similar position last offseason when Joe Blanton, their 2016 setup surprise, was a free agent. The Dodgers chose to pass on Blanton, who signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the Nationals.
Welcome to the volatile nature of bullpen work. Four of the Dodgers’ primary five relief pitchers in the postseason — Jansen, Morrow, Kenta Maeda, Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani pitched 53 of the club’s 64 relief innings — either weren’t on the roster on opening day or were in the starting rotation.