The Toronto Blue Jays locked up a key right-hand man Tuesday, re-signing starting pitcher Brandon Morrow to a three-year, $20-million US contract.
The deal includes a $10-million US club option for 2015.
"Contract situations can weigh a lot on a player's mind at times and now it is just about winning," Morrow said. "Now it is just about going out there and getting the job done."
Morrow, a 27-year-old right-hander, set career highs last season in wins (11), starts (30), innings pitched (179.1) and strikeouts (203).
The Santa Rosa, Calif., native led the American League with 10.19 strikeouts per nine innings — more than a full strikeout more than the runner-up.
'It was a no-brainer for us' — Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous
"We think Brandon is someone who is just going to continue to get better," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopolous said.
Morrow would have been eligible for free agency following the 2013 season. But he and the Blue Jays stood only $300,000 apart in figures submitted for salary arbitration.
He sought $4.2 million; Toronto countered with $3.9 million.
"I just feel a sense of loyalty to Alex for, first of all, believing in me in the first place and bringing me over here," Morrow said. "I love the city, love the organization, love my teammates.
"It's just a great opportunity to be able to extend that contract."
Morrow is slated for the second slot in Toronto's starting rotation behind all-star left-hander Ricky Romero.
Morrow's control is erratic at times. But he has overpowering velocity, a biting slider and a sweeping knuckle curveball, and has limited opposing hitters to a .235 average since making his major-league debut with the Seattle Mariners in 2007.
He ranks fourth in that regard, trailing only C.J. Wilson (.228), David Price (.228) and reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (.229).
"There is tremendous upside and tremendous ceiling," Anthopolous said, referring to Morrow's potential.
Morrow is 29-30 with a 4.37 earned-run average in 187 MLB appearances, including 71 starts, since Seattle drafted him fifth overall.
He is 21-18 with a 4.62 ERA and 381 strikeouts in 325 2/3 innings since being traded to Toronto for reliever Brandon League and outfielder Johermyn Chavez on Dec. 22, 2009.
Morrow is the latest of several Blue Jays regulars to commit to a multi-year extension, with Jose Bautista, Yunel Escobar, Adam Lind and Ricky Romero also on the club payroll through at least 2015.
With Morrow re-signed, reliever Casey Janssen is Toronto's lone player headed to arbitration.