It’s extremely common to hear about a player opting out in baseball. Stars have often had opt-out clauses for the final year of their deals, and in recent years many have given themselves the ability to opt out after just a year or two of a massive contract. At the end of every spring, non-roster invitees opt out to look for a better opportunity elsewhere.
But this season, those two words take on a different meaning.
Under a March agreement reached by MLB and the Players Association, high-risk players can opt out of the 2020 because of coronavirus concerns and still get paid. Players who are not deemed to be at a high risk can also opt out while surrendering their 2020 salaries and service time.
On the first day of the week MLB was set to return, four players opted out. Here’s a rundown of where the list currently stands:
Mike Leake (Diamondbacks starting pitcher)
The 32-year-old was the first to publicly make his intentions known. Leake’s agent told reporters that the right-hander “took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family.” There has been some speculation that Leake had family concerns; his father was paralyzed in an accident a few years ago and that’s in part why he ended up close to home with the Diamondbacks.
Ryan Zimmerman (Nationals first baseman)
Zimmerman is exactly the type of player you would think of when it comes to guys who had a difficult decision to make in recent weeks. He’s 35 and now is a part-time player, and he’s set for life financially and got his ring last October. In a statement put out by his agency, he made it clear this is about concerns for his family, which includes a mother with multiple sclerosis:
— CAA Baseball (@CAA_Baseball) June 29, 2020
Joe Ross (Nationals starting pitcher)
Ross, a 27-year-old Bay Area native who is the younger brother of Tyson, also opted out Monday. He did not immediately release a statement. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo said Zimmerman and Ross decided “not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year.”
Ian Desmond (Rockies outfielder)
The 34-year-old announced his decision at the end of a series of Instagram posts that examined injustices in baseball and society. It was a powerful statement, and one you should read in full here:
Tyson Ross (free agent starting pitcher)
It was a bit of a surprise when Ross was released by the Giants last week. As a veteran who could start or come out of the bullpen, he seemed like a good fit for what they were building in March, and an even better fit in a season with no true five-man rotation. But this seems to explain the decision:
Tyson Ross, currently a free agent, will join his brother Joe, a Nats pitcher, in sitting out this season. Both pitchers have given it a lot of thought. Their dad is a doctor, their mom a nurse.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 2, 2020
David Price (Dodgers Pitcher)
The biggest name in MLB to this date to withdraw, Price announced his decision to opt out of the 2020 season on social media during the holiday weekend. The southpaw didn’t get specific on the reasoning behind it, but said the decision was in the “best interest of my health and my family’s health.”
— David Price (@DAVIDprice24) July 4, 2020
Felix Hernandez (Braves pitcher)
Another former Cy Young award winner has decided not to play during the 2020 MLB season.
Felix Hernandez, who won the 2010 AL Cy Young while with the Seattle Mariners, won’t suit up for the Atlanta Braves this season, he agent tweeted Saturday night.
Felix hernandez con miedo al COVID-19 ,no jugará en la temporada 2020 , Felix hernandez with fear of Covid -19 does not feel well to play in the 2020 season
— Wilfredo Polidor (@wpolidor19) July 5, 2020
Felix Hernandez has opted out of the 2020 season due to concerns over COVID-19, his agent Wilfredo Polidor of Octagon said.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) July 5, 2020
After spending the first 15 seasons of his career with the Mariners, Hernandez signed a minor-league contract with Atlanta this offseason. He will turn 35 next April, when the 2021 MLB season is expected to start.