Rosenthal added that there is a vesting option for a third year. If Morton is on the disabled list for more than 200 days in the first two years, it drops to $1 million. If 30 days or less, he gets the full $15 million. It then scales down in increments of $10 million, $5 million and $3 million on days on the DL.
The Houston Astros opted not to give Morton a qualifying offer. The 34-year-old was an All-Star last season and had a career year, with a 3.13 ERA in 167 innings and striking out 10.9 batters per nine. It was a surprising decision, particularly as the 2017 World Series winners also lost Dallas Keuchel to free agency this offseason.
Morton has previously spoken of his desire for a short deal. Retirement is clearly on his mind, and this deal fits his criteria well, while allowing him to play for a team that could well contend in 2019 and 2020.
This is a big spend by the Rays’ standards. They cleared payroll last offseason – including trading franchise icon Evan Longoria – and had very little committed money for 2019 before this deal. Five players, including recently acquired Mike Zunino, are due for arbitration, while Kevin Kiermaier is owed just over $8 million. Everyone else is on league minimum.
Tampa Bay were an exciting team last year and had plenty of success with the opener. Adding Morton means we are likely to see less of that next season with Morton joining Cy Young winner Blake Snell and hard-throwing youngster Tyler Glasnow atop the rotation.
Few front threes will be as fun to watch as those guys. There’s velocity aplenty and three of the nastiest curveballs in the Major Leagues. A young roster allows for the odd veteran signing like Morton – this is one of the best moves they could have made with their budgetary constraints. Morton benefited from not carrying a qualifying offer, and Houston might be regretting that decision.