The Rays are not going to exercise their club options on right-hander Charlie Morton or catcher Mike Zunino, vice president of baseball operations Erik Neander told reporters (including Juan Toribio of MLB.com and Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times). Morton’s option was valued at $15MM, while Zunino stood to make $4.5MM if his option were exercised. Neither player will receive a buyout and both are now free agents.
Tampa Bay is leaving the door open to bringing either player back, Neander adds (via Toribio). Tampa is particularly interested in retaining Morton, it seems, with Neander noting the parties will look for a “creative” way to keep him in the fold (Topkin link).
Both players were key pieces of the Rays’ pennant-winning 2020 club, but Morton is the more notable of the two. The 36-year-old (37 next month) was a Cy Young finalist just a season ago, when he tossed 194.2 innings of 3.05 ERA ball. He took a bit of a step back over nine regular-season starts this season but he’s still at least a strong mid-rotation starter. He reaffirmed that with four stellar postseason starts.
More to come.