It was good while it lasted, but it sure didn’t last very long.
Cubs team president Theo Epstein announced today that reliever Brandon Morrow suffered a setback in his recovery from offseason arthroscopic elbow surgery and he will not pitch this season.
The Cubs signed Morrow as a free agent contract of two years and $18 million before the 2018 season. There was a team option for a third year for $12 million with a $3 million buyout. If it wasn’t clear earlier, the Cubs will certainly exercise the buyout now, thus ending Morrow’s time as a Cub.
Morrow came to the Cubs from the Dodgers, where he had been a key setup man for closer Kenley Jansen. The Cubs intended to make him the team’s closer and for half a season, it looked like an inspired move. In 35 games in 2018, Morrow posted a 1.47 ERA with 22 saves in 24 opportunities. But Morrow had been moved from the rotation to the bullpen in the first place because of an inability to stay healthy, and Morrow didn’t pitch again last season after July 15 with an elbow injury. Morrow avoided surgery last year as he tried to return for the stretch run, but he was unable to do so. In the offseason he underwent arthroscopic surgery to clean up the cartilage on his right elbow in hopes that he could return in 2019. Today, those hopes were laid to rest.
Epstein said that it was a “calculated risk” to sign Morrow and that it was “on him” for Morrow’s failure to solve the Cubs problems in the back of the bullpen. I don’t think it’s wrong to say that Morrow’s injury directly led to the Cubs signing of Craig Kimbrel this past June.
So the Cubs bullpen will move on now without Morrow, as it has been doing since last July. Whether Morrow, now 35, will ever pitch again is certainly unclear as well. It will depend on both Morrow’s health and his desire to continue his career after missing 1½ seasons.