ST. PETERSBURG -- When the Rays signed Charlie Morton to a two-year, $30 million deal last offseason, they knew that they were getting another quality starting pitcher and a veteran presence in the clubhouse. What the Rays didn’t know was that Morton was going to exceed expectations, both on and off the mound.
His impressive first season with Tampa Bay was capped off by a third-place finish for the American League Cy Young Award, which was determined by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Morton finished behind Astros pitchers Justin Verlander, who won his second AL Cy Young Award, and Gerrit Cole, who finished second in a close race. Both were his teammates in Houston in 2018. Morton received 18 third-place votes, 10 fourth-place votes and one fifth-place vote, for 75 total points, to finish in the top three of voting for the first time in his career.
“It’s pretty surreal; I haven’t really experienced anything like that in my career, in terms of individual accolades,” Morton said earlier this month. “To finish anywhere near where I am, it’s pretty amazing.”
While Morton didn’t win, his impact was felt throughout the organization.
Morton finished the 2019 season 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA, and led the Rays with 5.0 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball-Reference. The right-hander also made a career-high 33 starts in his first season with Tampa Bay and finished with a career-high 240 strikeouts in 194 2/3 innings during the regular season.
Aside from his success on the mound, which included a second All-Star berth and two win-or-go-home wins in the postseason, Morton provided leadership to a young Rays club that was in need of a veteran presence.
Morton served as a big influence in the development of Tyler Glasnow, and he was often seen chatting in the dugout with one of the Rays’ young players. When the Rays clinched a postseason berth in Toronto, Morton walked around the clubhouse because he wanted to enjoy watching his teammates celebrate for the first time.
“Just appreciative of the work that he’s done on the mound,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said in July. “But like I’ve said many times, I’m equally appreciative of what he’s done in the clubhouse and who he is and how he’s been so consistent for a bunch of young guys.”
With Morton finishing third on Wednesday, the Rays didn’t have anyone win an award despite having a finalist in three of the four major categories. Brandon Lowe finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting on Monday, while Kevin Cash also had a third-place finish for the AL Manager of the Year Award on Tuesday.