Rays decline options on Morton and Zunino, waive five players

It did not take for the Tampa Bay Rays to begin their re-making of the roster for the 2021 season.

The Rays announced this week that they would not pick up the option year on pitcher Charlie Morton and catcher Mike Zunino’s contract.

Both players were instrumental in helping the Rays reach the 2020 World Series.

Morton would have earned 15 million dollars in 2021, while Zunino was due to earn 4.5 Million dollars.

The 37-year-old Morton has hinted at retirement if the Rays did not pick up his option, but Morton could be one of the most in-demand free-agent pitchers this winter.

The Rays have had a payroll in the 60 million dollar range the last few seasons. According to GM Erik Neander, this was strictly a money decision when it came to Charlie Morton.

When your payroll is 60 million dollars, you can’t let one player eat up 25 percent of your payroll.

The Rays would like to have Morton and Zunino back, but not at their 2020 salaries. It remains to be seen whether the Rays can reach an agreement to being one or both players back.

Zunino, known for his defensive prowess, struggled offensively with the Rays. Zunino was acquired from Seattle in 2018 and hit .170 for the Rays over two seasons.

The Rays also waived catchers Kevan Smith, and Michael Perez, along with pitchers Chaz Roe, Andrew Kitteredge, and Aaron Loup.

The Pirates immediately signed Perez off waivers. That leaves the Rays with one catcher on the roster in prospect Ronaldo Hernandez.

Hernandez has no MLB experience, and it’s highly doubtful that he makes the big -league roster in 2021.

The Rays 2021 rotation right now looks like Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Ryan Yarbrough, and Josh Fleming.

Yonny Chirinos and Jalen Beeks will both miss the 2021 season as they recover from Tommy John surgery.

Brenden McKay could step in as the fifth starter, but the Rays will let probably let things settle down and see what is available on the free-agent market that can fit into their budget before making that decision on Mckay.