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Pirates trade Charlie Morton to Phillies

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates have traded Charlie Morton to the Phillies, receiving righty David Whitehead in return.

Whitehead, 23, doesn't look like much, at least not on paper -- he was a 34th-round draft pick and has posted unimpressive numbers in the minors, including a 4.44 ERA, 6.2 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 last year at Class A+ Clearwater. And it wouldn't make much sense for the Phillies to trade good prospects for big-league veterans right now anyway.

Really, then, this move is about clearing Morton's roster spot and salary. Morton looks, to me, like a pretty obvious rebound candidate next season -- more of his ground balls than usual went through the infield last year. But for the Pirates to deal him now is good, in a sense, because it signals that they're going to keep looking for starting pitching. A rotation with Jon Niese, Morton and Jeff Locke as the last three spots would have been disappointing, but it appears the Bucs are going to aim higher. (And the fact that they're making this move now suggests that they have a pretty good idea who they'll be pursuing, although I have no idea who that is.)

Anyway, Morton spent parts of seven seasons in the Pirates' rotation. He had moments of usefulness, and his ability to generate grounders was actually pretty incredible at times, but he never put together a banner season to justify the Roy Halladay comparisons he used to get. He was at his best in 2013 and 2014, when he posted ERAs in the threes. I think he still has another season like that in him, but if he has one, it's going to be in Philadelphia.