The Colorado Rockies will not pick up Justin Morneau’s $9 MM option for 2016, the team said Thursday. The option was a mutual one between Morneau and the team, who elected to not bring the 1st baseman back for the 2016 season. At the age of 34, Morneau will become a free agent and will look to find a team to play for in a possible fifteenth Major League season.
The original contract between the Rockies and Morneau was for two guaranteed years with the mutual option for the third season. Morneau made $4 million in his first season with the team and $6.75 million in his second season and is now owed a $750,000 buyout because his 2016 option was declined by the team.
Morneau has had a long and quite successful career, playing eleven seasons for the Minnesota Twins to begin his career followed by a year with the Pittsburgh Pirates and two with the Rockies. Morneau was a four-time All-Star with the Twins and won the 2006 MVP award. After a decline in his final years with the Twins, Morneau was traded to the Pirates near the end of 2013 before being signed to a free agent contract with the Rockies.
After a resurgent first year with the Rockies, in which he won the National League batting title, Morneau suffered a severe concussion in May of this season which caused him to miss the majority of the season. Upon his return late in the season, Morneau hit .378 in the months of September and October, finishing the year on a high note. Despite his strong finish after his injury, the Rockies elected to not spend the money on an aging player on a team with no hopes of contention.
With the emergence of rookie first baseman Ben Paulsen, it seemed clear that the Rockies were ready to move on from Morneau and get a little younger. It remains to be seen whether Morneau will retire or will come back for his fifteenth Major League season. If he does decide to return, Morneau wil definitely draw interest from several teams based on his strong finish to the 2015 season.