After a couple of weeks, the Tampa Bay Rays finally made their signing of RHP Charlie Morton official by announcing the two year, $30M contract with a possible $15M option for a third season.
Jon Heyman has uncovered the details of one of the largest free agent contracts in franchise history. Morton will earn a franchise record, $15M in 2019 as well as in 2020. The more unique part of the contract comes from his team option for the 2021 campaign.
Charlie Morton: $15M 2019, $15M 2020, Club option 2021 $15M. Option reduced to: $10M if on DL 31-90 days at end of 2020 $5M if on DL 91-150 days at end of 2020 $3M if on DL 151-200 days at end of 2020— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 23, 2018
$1M if on DL > 201 days at end of 2020. $1M if traded in 2019 $500K after #rays
If Morton goes on a prolonged stay on the disabled list, the option for the 2021 season becomes less and less. If he misses 31-90 days over the first two years of his contract, the option drops from $15M to $10M. If the DL stay climbs to 91-150 days, the option drops to just $5M. It will be a $3M option if he spends 151-200 days on the DL. Then, if some really cataclysmic happens to Morton, the option could drop to as low as $1M, with him spending over 201 days on the disabled list.
Morton does have a history of significant injuries, having undergone Tommy John surgery during the 2012 season, sandwiched between two hip surgeries (2011 and 2014). In 2018, he was placed on the DL towards the end of the season with right-shoulder discomfort, but spent a total of just 10 days on the shelf before being activated. He was on the DL for 40 days in 2017 for a lat strain.
With his contract finalized, the Rays 2019 payroll is currently projected to be around $53.6M using data from Baseball-Reference and Spotrac with the Rays sending $5M to the Mariners in the trade that brought Yandy Diaz to Tampa Bay, as well as the $2M they’re sending to the San Francisco Giants in the Evan Longoria trade.
They tendered contracts to Tommy Pham, Chaz Roe, Matt Duffy, and Mike Zunino, but have yet to settle. The arbitration deadline will be in January. Prior to the Morton signing, Kevin Kiermaier was the team’s highest paid player, earning $8M in 2019. The rest of the team (19 players) are all in pre-arb and set to make around league minimum.
The offseason is far from over, as we have just under two months until the start of spring training. The Rays are in the market for significant improvements as they have been repeatedly linked to free agent slugger, Nelson Cruz, as well as Miami Marlins catcher, JT Realmuto.
The Rays payroll on Opening Day in 2018 came in at $67.5M, so if the Rays are looking to match the number, they still have plenty of room to spend.