Maddon opts out of contract as manager of Rays

Longtime Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, the only winning manager in franchise history, opted out of his contract with the team Friday. He will leave the organization immediately.

Maddon told FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal that he had two weeks to opt out of his contract after general manager Andrew Friedman left the team to join the Dodgers.

At Friedman’s news conference in Los Angeles on Oct. 17, the new Dodgers GM told media members that Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly’s job was safe and that Mattingly would be in LA in 2015.

“I’m excited about working with Donnie. I’m going into it with the mindset we’re going to work together for a long time," Friedman said.

After Maddon opted out of his contract, Friedman was quick to reiterate that Mattingly would remain the Dodgers manager.

"Nothing has changed on our end," Friedman said. "Don Mattingly will be our manager next season and hopefully for a long time to come."

With the Dodgers apparently eliminated as a possible destination, Rosenthal reports that the Chicago Cubs are widely believed to be the frontrunners to hire Maddon. When specifically asked about the prospects of joining the Cubs, Maddon was non-committal.

"I have to talk to people," Maddon told Rosenthal. "I have interest everywhere right now. I’ve got to hear what everyone has to say."

Maddon’s agent, Alan Nero, said he has contacted several teams and believes there will be four or five legitimate suitors to bring in Maddon for next season.

YOGI BERRA: 1925-2015

Among the teams Nero has contacted, some have managers under contract. That includes the Cubs, with Rick Renteria signed until 2016 with club options for the following two seasons. But Maddon said he can’t worry about the prospect of taking another manager’s job.

"For me, it’s not my responsibility to think for other organizations," Maddon told Rosenthal. "I’m controlling what I can. I had this two-week window of opportunity. It’s about myself, my family, my charities. At the end of the day, I would never ask or tell an organization what to do. That’s not my business."

Maddon made it clear that he expects to be a manager next season, but even if that doesn’t pan out, he does not plan on taking a year off.

"I’d love to manage. If the right opportunity does not present itself, I would want to work," Maddon told Rosenthal. "But I would hope it would be a managing position. If not, there are other things I can do that would make me an even better manager when I get the opportunity again."

Rays outfielder tweeted his best wishes:

However, pitcher Chris Archer appeared to take shot at Maddon:

But he quickly backtracked:

Maddon became Rays manager in 2006 and helped lead a turnaround for what had been a moribund franchise. He finishes his stint in Tampa with an overall .517 winning percentage (754-705), including leading two American League East division-title winners (2008, 2010) and managing the Rays to a 2008 AL pennant.

The team released the following statement on Maddon’s departure from owner Stuart Sternberg:

"Joe Maddon has exercised an opt-out in his current contract, a contract which was not scheduled to expire until after the 2015 season. 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. 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."

The Rays had expected to have Maddon in their dugout at least through 2015, but will move on without him.

”We are turning the page to begin a process to look for a new manager,” Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said. ”It’s going to be a deliberate and comprehensive search, including both internal and external candidates.”

Madden told the Tampa Bay Times that leaving the Rays after nine seasons was a gut-wrenching decision.

”I have been doing this for a long time,” Maddon told the newspaper. ”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.”

Maddon guided the Rays from perennial losers into a club that had six consecutive winning seasons before finishing 77-85 this year.

”There’s a lot of work to be done this offseason, and this certainly adds to all that’s on our plate,” Silverman said.

”The last time we went looking for a manager was nine years ago and we did a pretty good job finding Joe,” Silverman added. ”There’s no timetable. It will take us as long as we need to get the right guy. There’s no shortcuts here.”

Silverman, who took over for Friedman after serving as team president for a decade, said Maddon’s contract contained a clause that allowed to opt-out under certain conditions, including Friedman leaving the Rays.

Silverman described himself as ”surprised” and ”disappointed” by Maddon’s decision, adding he and Sternberg were optimistic about the chances of retaining the manager when talks began.

”I believe Joe wanted to be the manager of the Rays long term. That was my intention and Stu’s intention. We dove head-first into discussions, but it takes two parties to reach an agreement,” Silverman said.

”I’m very comfortable with the financial offers that we made Joe. They were very generous,” Silverman added. ”He listened to those and chose to opt out.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.