I had only just stepped off of my plane when I noticed that my Co-Expert, Seth Carter, had suggested that Charlie Morton’s future with the Rays could be impacted the Yankees hypothetically signing Gerrit Cole. He is wrong. Totally and completely wrong.
When the Rays signed Charlie Morton last offseason, the motive was clear: Bring in a consistent veteran starter to boost and solidify the rotation and lead the charge to October. Charlie Morton did just that in 2019, finishing as the ace of the staff and starting the Wild Card game in Oakland. He was the only starting pitcher to stay healthy all season long as the Rays dealt with injuries to Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Yonny Chirinos.
The plan for Charlie Morton in 2020 is going to be more of the same. To lead a young team and a young rotation back to October for the second time in as many years… regardless of where Gerrit Cole signs.
While it is true that the Rays have some work to do this offseason to replace the production lost in Travis d’Arnaud, Avisail Garcia, and Tommy Pham the current roster is largely similar the one that took them to the playoffs and won 96 games.
Ji-Man Choi, Willy Adames, Brandon Lowe, and Yandy Diaz all remain in the infield while KK and Austin Meadows will hold down the outfield along with the newly acquired (so we think) Hunter Renfroe.
And trust me, they aren’t done yet. They have a stacked farm system from which they can flip high end prospects for immediate production in 2020. They will likely add to an already dominant bullpen. They have enough financial flexibility (I hope) to go out and get a guy like Puig, Betances, or Treinen.
They won 96 games last year and are largely the same team with a few holes to fill. So, Charlie Morton isn’t going to be on the trading block come July 31st because the Rays are going to yet again be in contention for the East and for the Wild Card spots regardless of where Gerrit Cole lands.
There is no reason to think that the Rays have seriously regressed from the team they were at the end of the season. The pitching staff is the same if not better now that they should enter 2019 healthy. The lineup is largely the same and now has more pop thanks to the addition of Hunter Renfroe.
If the Rays can find additional help behind the plate (Wilson Contreras) and in the outfield (Mitch Haniger, Domingo Santana, Yasiel Puig, etc.), the Rays will be in an even better position to compete for the East and a ring in 2020.