As many people expected to happen, the Colorado Rockies have officially declined their portion of the mutual option they had with Justin Morneau for the 2016 season. That makes Morneau a free agent, effectively immediately, and able to sign with any Major League organization.
The Rockies' Twitter account confirmed the news on Thursday afternoon:
Morneau, who will turn 35 years old in May, only saw action in 49 games in 2015 due to concussion-like symptoms that shelved him for much of the year after an injury sustained in May during a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
On the field, accounting for his shortened season, Morneau was nearly as productive in 2015 as he had been in a strong 2014; in 168 at-bats this year, Morneau slashed .310/.363/.458 and struck out only 25 times.
His age, recent injury history, and his looming contract option (Morneau would have made $9 million in 2016 had both sides mutually chosen for him to return to Denver) all likely played a factor in the Rockies declining their side of the option. Both sides can still renegotiate a smaller free agent deal for Morneau to return next year to the Rockies, as well.
As it stands now, Ben Paulsen would seem to be in line to receive the primary time at first base next season. Best of luck to Morneau, a class act who was productive and talented when on the field the last two years in Colorado, as he looks for a new job elsewhere in baseball.