Rays manager Joe Maddon opts out of contract, leaves team

Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and is leaving the team immediately, after saying last week that he wanted to remain with the team. 
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Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and is leaving the team immediately, the Rays announced Friday.

Maddon had one year left on the three-year contract extension he signed in 2012.

Just last week, Maddon said that he wanted to stay with the team. Former executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman left the franchise to become the Los Angeles Dodgers' president of baseball operations, and Maddon refuted speculation he was going to follow Friedman to Los Angeles, saying "I'm a Ray and I'm going to be with the Rays and I'm hoping to be with them for a long time."

On Friday, Maddon told Marc Topkin of theTampa Bay Times that it was a "gut wrenching," almost "sick" feeling to leave the Rays. He said he chose to leave due to a combination of financial considerations and wanting to explore other opportunities.

"I have been doing this for a long time," Maddon said. "I have never had this opportunity to research my employment on my terms. Never, never, never. And I think anybody given the same set of circumstances would do the same thing."

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Maddon's agent, Alan Nero, said he expects him to manage elsewhere in 2015, and Maddon said he'd prefer to do so.

The Minnesota Twins are currently the only MLB team with a managerial opening. and they've reportedly chosen Paul Molitor, Torey Lovullo and Doug Mientkiewicz as the three finalists for the job. The Arizona Diamondbacks recently hired Chip Hale as their new manager, and the Texas Rangers recently hired Jeff Banister.

Friedman said that Dodgers manager Don Mattingly would “definitely” return to the team next season. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that Maddon is not considering the Dodgers as an option.

"We tried diligently and aggressively to sign Joe to a third contract extension prior to his decision. As of yesterday afternoon, Joe enabled himself to explore opportunities throughout Major League Baseball," Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg said in a statement. "He will not be managing the Rays in 2015. Joe has been our manager for nine seasons, and the foundation of success laid during his tenure endures. We thank him for all that he's meant to the organization."

Former Rays president and new president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said he was "surprised" and "disappointed" at Maddon's choice. Silverman said it became clear during negotiations that the two sides weren't going to agree on a contract extension but that he's "very comfortable" with the offers the team made.

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Tampa Bay won 90 or more games in four straight seasons before the team fell to a 77-85 record in 2014.

In nine years with the Rays, Maddon compiled a 754-705 record. He has won two American League manager of the year awards and took Tampa Bay to the only four playoff berths in franchise history, including a World Series appearance in 2008.

-Scooby Axson