first_imgMorton did not fit that label. He entered the offseason as one of the surest things on the market given his newfound ability to make his hard fastball and sharp curve look the same until it’s too late for a batter to react. His success in 2017 and 2018 indicated that he was ready to keep going as one of MLB’s best starters.So it was not surprising to see the right-hander shut down the Tigers on Wednesday, helping Tampa Bay improve to 36-23 with the 4-0 victory. It won’t be a shock if a similar result accompanies his next start in Boston against a team that could have afforded his services but passed him up.The rest of the league will have to wear Morton’s predictable dominance on the hill for a while. The Rays hope to ride it deep into October. Morton needed just 83 pitches to swim through seven scoreless innings against Detroit, improving to 7-0 and dropping his ERA to 2.30. At 35, he’s putting together the best season of his career in the most ho-hum way imaginable.“This is more like pedestrian boring me going out there and just trying to do my job,” Morton told the Tampa Bay Times. “And I do mean that.’’Despite consecutive standout campaigns for Morton in Houston and clear evidence that he had become a legitimate pitching asset, 29 MLB teams let the Rays sign him to an affordable short-term deal that included built-in injury protections. Most contenders could have easily blown his two-year, $15 million offer with a vesting option for a third year out of the water, and even cash-strapped organizations could have made a competitive bid. It’s unclear why no one bit.MORE: Watch ‘ChangeUp,’ a new MLB live whiparound show on DAZNAmong the teams likely regretting their free agent approach to Morton are the Red Sox, who chose to sign right-hander Nathan Eovaldi to a longer, more expensive contract at four years, $68 million. Eovaldi carried significant injury risk, and he’s already sidelined with an elbow injury that required surgery. His ERA over the past three seasons is 4.16 compared with Morton’s 3.21.Elsewhere, Lance Lynn got a three-year, $30 million contract from the Rangers and Garrett Richards, who hasn’t started more than 16 games since 2015, got a two-year, $15 million contract from the Padres. J.A. Happ is older than Morton but got a two-year, $34 million deal from the Yankees with a vesting option for a third season. Matt Harvey (7.50 ERA) is getting paid $11 million this campaign.Other teams neglected their starting pitching needs entirely. The A’s failed to funnel money into a flimsy rotation that was carried by a strong bullpen in 2018, while the Pirates did not invest further in a staff that now has a 4.84 ERA.Finding bargains is something the Rays have almost always done at a high level, not only to compete but to survive as an organization. Usually they’re pouncing on players who have yet to fully break out, anticipating what might come next. Charlie Morton dispatched the Tigers on Wednesday night in the same way he muted the Twins in his last start and the Indians before that.Fastball-curveball, curveball-curveball, curveball-fastball, fastball-fastball. Keep it inside to the lefties, work down and away to the righties. A simple game plan for a veteran able to execute.last_img