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Is Rays’ Charlie Morton retiring after 2020?

The veteran Rays pitcher said Tuesday that he might. Performance, health, family and money all will be part of his decision.
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) pitches at the top of the first inning against Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Sept. 01, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) pitches at the top of the first inning against Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Sept. 01, 2019 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. [ Times ]
Published Feb. 11, 2020

PORT CHARLOTTE — Could this be Charlie Morton’s last season pitching?

Coming off a 2019 performance that was his best statistically, Morton, 36, said he could retire after this season, that it will depend primarily on his performance and his health.

"I don’t know,'' Morton said Tuesday after a pre-spring workout. "If I throw really well and I feel really good, it’s going to be a tough decision. But if either one of those things happen, where I’m not pitching really well, or I’m not healthy, then, yeah, I’m not going to play.''

The decision also will include familial and financial reasons.

Related: Morton regrets not doing more to stop Astros 2017 cheating scheme

Morton is heading in the second season of a two-year deal with the Rays that pays him $15 million per and includes an interesting team option for 2021. If it is picked up, he would make another $15 million if he has less than 30 days on the injured list in 2019-20, and reduced salaried with an increased number of days missed, to $10 million, $5 million, $3 million or $1 million (at 200 or more, which isn’t a factor since he was healthy all of 2019).

That means he potentially could be walking away from a lot of money. "The financial aspect would play a part,'' he said.

But spending more time with his family, wife Cindy and four young kids, at their Bradenton home, also has immense value.

"It’s interesting because a lot of it is about my relationship with my kids,'' Morton said. "It’s about my relationship with my wife and trying to make a marriage work while you’re on the road for three-four months’ worth of time out of the year while she’s at home taking care of four kids who are growing up without you around and wondering where you are.

"It’s like, Do you have to do that? No, I don’t have to anymore. I don’t. That’s the reality of it. So it’s like why would I feel the pressure of that? I don’t feel the pressure of doing that.

"I feel the pressure of making the right decision for my family.''

Another factor in the decision could be if the Rays were to trade Morton. Though general manager Erik Neander said this past offseason he could not see any situation where he would trade the veteran right-hander, that could change depending on how this season unfolds.

Related: Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier panicked, then relaxed, after Manuel Margot trade

The opportunity to live at home during spring training and the regular season, to see his kids regularly, and do things like taking them to school in the morning, was a big part of the appeal of signing with the Rays of Morton. It would also be part of the decision on whether to retire.

"This situation is probably as good as it gets,'' he said.

Morton, admittedly pessimistic by nature, said he faced a similar question about retiring after signing a two-year deal with the Astros in 2017 and pitching very well.

"I think because I’m so pessimistic, and I was coming off four or five years of either pitching poorly or being injured, I was just assuming it’s probably not going to go well for that long,'' he said. "And that’s my attitude right now.''

Contact Marc Topkin at Follow @TBTimes_Rays.