Brandon Morrow signs with the Chicago Cubs after appearing in the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
(photo courtesy of Major League Baseball)
The Chicago Cubs just made a very large financial bet on the continued health of a 33-year-old pitcher with type 1 diabetes, as they announced this month that they had signed Brandon Morrow to a two-year contract worth a guaranteed $21 million. With the signing, the Cubs indicate that they believe Morrow will be a durable anchor for the team’s bullpen. He is currently expected to start the season as the team’s closer, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
The $21 million deal is the largest contract for a professional athlete with type 1 diabetes since quarterback Jay Cutler signed a $50 million contract with another Chicago team, the Bears of the NFL in 2014. The $21 million will represent a steep increase in earnings for Morrow from the minor league deal he had signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the last offseason.
Morrow was once considered one of the most promising young starting pitchers of Major League Baseball when he started in the league a decade ago, but his career has been derailed by a series of injuries. He began the 2017 season with the Oklahoma City Dodgers (AAA) before earning his way onto the Dodgers’ roster later in the season. Once in L.A., he quickly installed himself as the team’s eighth inning setup man, amassing a stellar 2.06 ERA during the regular season. He added to his great season with a strong performance throughout three rounds of playoffs, and capped it off by being only the second pitcher in history to pitch in seven consecutive games in one World Series.
This will be the fifth Major League team for Morrow, with previous stops in Seattle, Toronto, and San Diego before Los Angeles. In each city he has played, Morrow has raised awareness of type 1 diabetes and met with young athletes with type 1 diabetes. He is very open about his condition, and regularly discusses his blood sugar management strategies with local and national reporters (he’s a pump-wearer, but disconnects when he enters the game).
The contract guarantees Morrow $18 million for 2018 and 2019. In 2020, the Chicago Cubs can opt to sign him again for $12 million; if they decline, they will owe him $3 million in a buyout clause of the contract.
Morrow is one of a small club of players with Type 1 diabetes who have played or are playing in the big leagues. By joining the Cubs, he follows in the footsteps of Ron Santo, a Hall of Fame third baseman who played for the Cubs and the crosstown White Sox in the sixties and seventies. Last year, Dustin McGowan, a former teammate of Morrow’s who also has Type 1 diabetes, pitched for the Miami Marlins.
While Santo was considered a pioneer as a player with Type 1 diabetes, it is much more common to find athletes with Type 1 diabetes participating in organized sports at all levels. An 2012 Glu survey found that just over 75.1% of Glu users said they had or have participated in organized sports.