Right-hander Charlie Morton followed up his career year in 2019 by helping the Tampa Bay Rays get to the World Series, but the team has decided to decline his $15 million third-year option, general manager Erik Neander said, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The 36-year-old joined the team on a two-year, $30 million deal in free agency in 2019 after two seasons with the Houston Astros, with whom he won the World Series in 2017.
Before Houston, he spent a year with the Philadelphia Phillies—a brief stint compared to his seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. A 2002 draft pick by the Atlanta Braves, he made his major league debut with the team in 2008. But after 11 seasons on four teams, it was Tampa where he broke out.
In his first year with the Rays, Morton amassed a 3.05 ERA while throwing 194.2 innings across 33 starts (16-6), all career highs. He finished third in American League Cy Young Award voting and also earned votes for MVP, finishing 21st.
During the team's World Series run in 2020, the veteran made nine starts during an unimpressive albeit unique regular season, fanning 42 with 43 hits and 20 earned runs through 38.0 innings. But in the postseason, the veteran shone.
After a Game 3 outing in the ALDS in which he struck out six and gave up one earned run against the New York Yankees, Morton was stretched to two starts in the ALCS. He tossed five innings of scoreless ball, striking out five and walking one in a 4-2 defeat of the Houston Astros. He then punched Tampa's ticket to the championship series with 5.2 scoreless innings of two-hit ball in Game 7.
In February, Morton told Topkin that he wasn't sure whether he would continue his career and that a potential 14th season in the league would depend on his 2020 success.
"If I throw really well and I feel really good, it's going to be a tough decision," he said. "But if either one of those things happen, where I'm not pitching really well, or I'm not healthy, then, yeah, I'm not going to play."