After falling two victories short of a World Series title, the Tampa Bay Rays began working on the 2021 roster by declining club contract options on right-hander Charlie Morton and catcher Mike Zunino.
There were no buyouts on either contract option and the duo will head into free agency without any further compensation.
Morton, who signed a two-year deal with the Rays before the 2019 season for $30 million, was in line to make $15 million in 2021 before the club declined.
Set to turn 36 on Nov. 12, Morton was 16-6 with a 3.05 ERA in 2019, finishing third in American League Cy Young Award voting. He slipped to 2-2 with a 4.74 ERA in nine starts in 2020, but was 3-1 in four postseason starts with a 2.70 ERA. He was the losing pitcher in Game 3 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Morton is 93-89 with a 4.08 ERA in 259 appearances (258 starts) in 13 seasons with the Atlanta Braves (2008), Pittsburgh Pirates (2009-15), Philadelphia Phillies (2016), Houston Astros (2017-18) and Rays (2019-20).
Zunino, 29, was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in a trade after the 2018 season and was on consecutive one-year deals with the Rays. His 2021 club option was worth $4.5 million.
Valued more for his defense, Zunino batted .147 with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 28 regular-season games in 2020 but helped the Tampa Bay pitching staff to a 3.56 ERA, second best in the American League. He then batted .170 in the postseason, starting all six games in the World Series.
Zunino is a career .200 hitter with 108 home runs and 283 RBIs in eight seasons with the Mariners (2013-18) and Rays (2019-20).
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Rays general manager Erik Neander has interest in bringing both players back on new deals.
--Field Level Media