Rays ace Charlie Morton enjoyed the finest season of his career in 2019, tossing 194 2/3 innings of 3.05 ERA ball with career-bests in K/9 (11.1) and BB/9 (2.6). No qualified starting pitcher in all of Major League Baseball surrendered home runs at a lower rate than Morton’s 0.69 HR/9 clip.
Morton is set to earn $15MM in 2020 — the second season of a two-year, $30MM deal with the Rays — and the Tampa Bay organization holds an option for a third season as well. However, Morton tells Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that he isn’t certain he’ll continue pitching beyond the upcoming season, which will be his 13th in the Majors.
“If I throw really well and I feel really good, it’s going to be a tough decision,” the two-time All-Star said. Struggling through a poor season or enduring notable injuries, it seems, would hasten the 36-year-old’s desire to walk away from the game and spend more time with his family.
This isn’t the first time that Morton has questioned his future in the game. When he initially signed a two-year, $14MM deal with the Astros that spanned the 2017-18 seasons, Morton openly wondered how long he’d continue after the completion of that deal. Looking back and candidly expressing his pessimistic nature to Topkin, Morton hints that he never expected to find the increasing levels of success he’s enjoyed in recent years, though.
The 2019 season saw Morton finish third in American League Cy Young voting and make the All-Star team for a second consecutive season … after going without an All-Star nod for the first 11 years of his career. He ranked sixth among starting pitchers in terms of fWAR (6.1), fourth in FIP (2.81), eighth in strikeout percentage (30.4%) and 10th in K-BB% (23.2%). Morton was very arguably worth the entire $30MM sum of his contract (and then some) in year one alone.
Morton’s 2021 option will be valued at $15MM so long as he spends fewer than 30 days on the injured list in 2020. He didn’t spend a single day on the IL in 2019. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario that sees Morton walk away from that type of salary on the heels of another excellent season, but it’ll surely be a family decision. Morton makes his home in nearby Bradenton and cited proximity to his family as a notable factor in opting to sign with Tampa Bay in the first place.