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AL East Notes: Morton, Zunino, Walker, Red Sox, Yolmer

Charlie Mortonwasn’t surprised” that the Rays declined to exercise their $15MM club option on his services, but the veteran right-hander told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that the team’s decision “doesn’t mean we won’t try to work something outIf there’s mutual interest, the next step is gauging what that looks like.”  Rays GM Erik Neander indicated yesterday that the team indeed hoped to bring Morton back for a third season.  If an acceptable deal can’t be worked out with the Rays or another club, Morton reiterated to Topkin that he’ll gauge whether he wants to keep playing, weighing such “typical factors” as his health, playing for a contender, and “does it make sense financially and geographically?

The Rays declined options on both Morton and (at $4.5MM) catcher Mike Zunino yesterday.  Jet Sports Management represents both players, and agent B.B. Abbott told Topkin in a separate piece that there aren’t any hard feelings about the contractual decisions.  “Their first choice was to be in Tampa, and it probably still is their first choice,” Abbott said, but now that Morton and Zunino are on the open market, “they owe it to themselves to see what’s out there.”

More from the AL East…

  • Taijuan Walker figures to get a lot of attention in free agency this winter, but there is mutual interest between Walker and the Blue Jays in a return to Toronto’s rotation,’s Ben Nicholson-Smith writes.  Acquired in a trade from the Mariners in late August, Walker posted excellent numbers (1.37 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 2.27 K/BB rate) in his six starts in a Jays uniform.  Beyond the on-field results, Walker was also impressed by both the Jays’ long-term potential as contenders, and how the club treats its players.  “They have really good staff, coaches, training staff.  For me, it’s all about comfort and people,” Walker said.  “Being connected and having that family, and that’s what it felt like.”  Once one of baseball’s most highly-touted pitching prospects, injuries cost Walker virtually all of the 2018 and 2019 seasons but he has somewhat revived his stock after his solid 2020 performance.
  • While the Red Sox have interviewed several candidates to be their next manager, “the managerial search appears to be centered on determining if Chaim Bloom and Alex Cora can work well together,” the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham writes.  Of course, Cora was already Boston’s manager when Bloom was hired as the club’s chief baseball officer last October, though Cora’s firing and subsequent one-year suspension are undoubtedly considerations for Red Sox ownership and the front office in deciding whether or not to bring Cora back.  While Cora’s return has been widely speculated, Abraham isn’t sure a rehire “is automatic,” opining that Cora could potentially wait to see if another high-profile job (perhaps with the Mets) becomes available.
  • Now that Yolmer Sanchez has been claimed on waivers, the Orioles have some extra depth as they consider other infield moves, as’s Steve Melewski writes.  No decision has yet been made about Jose Iglesias’ $3.5MM club option, and with Sanchez now on hand as a second base candidate, the O’s could potentially non-tender Hanser Alberto, who is projected to earn between $2.3MM and $4.1MM in arbitration (depending on how arb salaries are calculated this winter).  Sanchez is himself eligible for arbitration, however, and his projected $6.2MM arb figure last winter was the chief reason why the White Sox non-tendered him last November.
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