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The Yankees are getting an interesting arm in Cody Morris

The new trade acquisition might be a high-upside project for Matt Blake and the Yankees.

Cleveland Guardians v. Minnesota Twins Photo by David Berding/MLB Photos via Getty Images

After the Yankees went out and acquired Juan Soto, Trent Grisham and Alex Verdugo via trade, the writing was on the wall: Estevan Florial had no future on this team. If he was constantly overlooked when the likes of Billy McKinney, Franchy Cordero, Aaron Hicks, Willie Calhoun, Greg Allen, or Jake Bauers were the ones in front of him in the depth chart, now he would be completely buried.

That’s why the Yankees agreed to flip Florial to the Cleveland Guardians, in exchange for right-hander Cody Morris. It’s a low-profile deal for both franchises in the grand scheme of things, but one that could prove helpful for both sides. Florial needed a change of scenery and could find playing time in Cleveland that he just wasn’t going to get in New York, and that might be all he needs to break out (well, that, and the ability to hit breaking balls consistently).

Morris has the potential to be a really useful depth arm for the Yanks, helping fill the void following the Juan Soto trade. He is a 27-year-old right-hander who will enter just the second season of his service time clock, meaning that he will make close to the league minimum in 2024 and 2025.

From a pure front-office standpoint, Morris is cheap and controllable, but he is also talented. Featuring a four-seam fastball that averaged 95.2 mph in 2023, he also has a cutter, a changeup and a curveball that he rode to a disappointing 6.75 ERA this past season. The sample size for that ERA — just eight innings — is not enough to make any conclusions, though. He missed time with a teres major strain in his right shoulder back in spring training and also pitched 33.2 innings in Triple-A, a level in which he had a 3.74 ERA but a 5.53 FIP.

Morris can certainly rack up the Ks: he has 32 in 31.2 innings as a major leaguer, dating back to 2022 (a season in which he had a 2.28 ERA in 23.2 frames). However, he also has a bit of a control problem, walking 18 batters in those 31.2 innings (5.12 per nine). In addition to the control issues, he is a bit homer-prone, too, having allowed six long balls in those 31.2 frames as a major leaguer (1.71 per nine innings).

Morris’ fastball and cutter appear to be among his worst pitches, which is puzzling because they are the ones he throws the most. The heater returned a .375 xwOBA in 2023 and a .426 mark in 2022, while the cutter checked in at .500 and .363, respectively. It’s odd, because even though the heater doesn’t quite have elite speed, it’s above-average in that regard and the spin rates are very solid: he ranked in the 97th percentile in spin rate in 2022 and in the 91st percentile in 2023, keeping in mind that the sample size in that last season is tiny. The pitch should be returning better results.

However, spin efficiency might be a problem with Morris’ four-seam fastball. The pitch had 84 percent of active spin in 2023 and 83 percent in 2022. In that last campaign (the one with the largest sample), he ranked 501st out of 632 pitchers with a minimum of 50 fastballs thrown in spin efficiency. Remember that active spin is the one that contributes to movement.

Therefore, inefficient spin on his fastball and spotty command have held Morris back, but if the Yankees are organizationally sound in one aspect of the science that is pitching, it’s in optimizing heaters of all types. Perhaps Matt Blake can help make it more of a weapon to increase his floor and to give his excellent changeup a more pronounced effect:

A pitch mix change might possibly be in the works, too. The bottom line is that the Yankees got a versatile pitcher (according to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com, he might even compete for the fifth starter gig come spring training, and he has starting experience) for a player they clearly weren’t going to use, and it’s hard to blame them for that. Even though Florial is quite talented, the organization evidently didn’t trust him to cut his strikeouts and become more than a fifth outfielder. Best of luck to him finding a real, consistent position finally, and hopefully the Yankees can turn in another bargain find for their pitching staff.