MLB is expected to open its 2020 season on July 23 after a roughly three-week training period that is set to begin July 3 at clubs’ home parks.
Players are deciding on an individual basis whether to take the field this year while the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to infect large numbers of people in the U.S. MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed to more than 100 pages of health and safety protocols that are intended to keep team personnel safe, but players continue to test positive for the virus.
Baseball is allowing players who are deemed “high-risk” to opt out of playing and not lose their prorated season salaries or service time. Players who are not considered high-risk can also opt out, but then they would forfeit their salaries and not accrue service time.
Several players have already announced that they will sit out the season rather than take a chance on getting sick. Here is a running list of MLB players who won’t be suiting up in 2020.
Mike Leake, RHP, Diamondbacks
Leake was the first player reported to have withdrawn. His agent, Danny Horwits, said in a statement June 29 (per MLB.com) that Leake came to his decision after speaking with his family. “They took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family,” Horwits said.
Leake, 32, is giving up about $5 million in salary, the amount he would have made in MLB’s planned 60-game season. He’ll become a free agent in the offseason if the D-backs decline their $18 million club option for 2021 and pay him a $5 million buyout.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Nationals
Washington’s longest-tenured player also cited family concerns in his decision to stay away.
“(G)iven my family circumstances — three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk — I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman said in a statement released by the Nationals on June 29.
Zimmerman, 35, said he is not retiring, but he also hasn’t decided on his baseball future past 2020. He came back for one more year last offseason after the Nationals won the World Series. He was set to make $740,000 in the shortened season, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Joe Ross, RHP, Nationals
Ross, 27, was in contention to be Washington’s No. 5 starter. Now, he’ll forfeit $555,556, per Cot’s (or roughly the minimum MLB salary) and the 67 days of service time he would have accrued. The Washington Post noted that loss of days will push Ross’ free agency eligibility to after the 2022 season.
“We are one-hundred percent supportive of their decision to not play this year,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said of Zimmerman and Ross in a statement.
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