Morton mulls future with Rays, retirement

October 12th, 2020

While ’s short-term focus is on starting Game 2 of the American League Championship Series against the Astros on Monday and ultimately helping the Rays win their first World Series championship, the right-hander knows that he’ll have to make a decision on his future after the season.

Morton, who turns 37 next month, is in the final year of his contract with the Rays, unless Tampa Bay picks up his $15 million club option. If the club picks up the option, Morton said he’ll sign up to play one more season.

“[This team] cares about each other every single day,” Morton said ahead of Tampa Bay's 2-1 win over the Astros in Game 1 on Sunday. “If a team like that wants me back next year, I would be completely honored and privileged to continue to play. Needless to say, we live 40-something miles away from the Trop. Being out here in the bubble, I’ve grown to appreciate my situation even more with the Rays.”

If the Rays decide not to pick up Morton’s option because of the price tag, he said he would have to sit down with his wife and kids and make a decision. Part of the reason Morton signed with Tampa Bay two years ago was because he would be able to stay at home with his family all year long. If the Rays decide to decline the option and renegotiate, Morton is also willing to listen.

“The unknowns with COVID and this offseason, I don’t know what negotiations are going to look like with the league,” Morton said. “I don’t know what the situation is going to be like with our country or worldwide with the virus, what kind of protocols will be in place next year or even what job opportunities I’ll have next year. I don’t know. Those are all unknown things.”

Morton has four kids at home, and he has always said his decision will come down to what’s best for his family. His overall health will also play a role in his decision, and he said he feels good despite missing some time with right shoulder inflammation. His Game 3 start against the Yankees in the AL Division Series, where his fastball was back at 96 mph, would back up his claim.

“It’s going to be a decision,” Morton said. “Ideally, you want what’s best for your family. You want what’s best for the organization you play for. If that ends this year, I’m prepared to hang them up.”

Over the past two seasons, Morton has played a big role in the Rays’ success. On the field, he finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting last season after posting a 3.05 ERA in a career-high 33 starts. Morton has also given the Rays an experienced postseason resume with 10 appearances under his belt. In three playoff starts with Tampa Bay, Morton is 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA, and he got the win in last year’s AL Wild Card Game against Oakland.

But Morton’s impact in the clubhouse has been even greater. Tyler Glasnow and Blake Snell have credited him for their continued growth. Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe spoke highly of Morton after he took them under his wing during last year’s All-Star Game.

Though the Rays hope they see Morton on the mound at least a few more times over the next two weeks, there’s a chance that Monday’s Game 2 will be the last time he pitches in a Major League game.

“On a selfish level, I didn’t want this to be the last memory I had of the game, the way it’s had to go with testing and isolation, not being able to really enjoy special moments together in the clubhouse,” Morton said. “This is a very trying time for the game. I got to spend it with a tremendous group of people. It would be an honor, if it is my last year, to have done it with this group.”