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.
MORE: Key dates, schedule and more to know about 2020 season
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Leake was the first player reported to have withdrawn.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.
Ian Desmond, OF, Rockies
Desmond, 34, said in an Instagram post June 29 that he’s opting out for two reasons: a desire to be with his family (his wife is pregnant with their fifth child) and his angst as a biracial man over racial injustice. He said he will use the time off to work on reviving youth baseball in his hometown, Sarasota, Fla.
“It’s what I can do, in the scheme of so much. So, I am,” he wrote.
His decision will cost him $5.55 million, per Cot’s, and service time. He still has another year, plus an option, to go on his five-year, $70 million contract.
David Price, LHP, Dodgers
Price said July 4 that “it is in the best interest of my health and family’s health for me to not play this season.” The Dodgers acquired Price, Mookie Betts and cash in a trade with the Red Sox last February. Price will forfeit close to $12 million in salary this year, but he is still owed $32 million each in 2021 and 2022.
Tyson Ross, RHP, Giants
Joe Ross’ brother is also declining to play. Tyson Ross was a non-roster player with San Francisco before being released prior to the start of summer training.
Felix Hernandez, RHP, Braves
Hernandez’s agent, Wilfredo Polidor, announced July 4 that the veteran opted out over concerns about COVID-19. King Felix was competing for a rotation spot as a non-roster player when spring training was suspended.
Nick Markakis, OF, Braves
Braves manager Brian Snitker announced on July 6 that the Atlanta outfielder would be sitting out the season. Markakis, 36, is signed through the end of the 2020 season. (UPDATE: Markakis announced July 29 that he was opting back in to playing. “Sometimes, we all make rash decisions that are not thought out thoroughly,” Markakis said, through MLB.com.
Buster Posey, C, Giants
Posey and his wife are adopting identical twin girls, they announced the morning of July 10. Posey will sit out the season as a health precaution.
Michael Kopech, RHP, White Sox
The White Sox announced on July 10 that Kopech would not participate in the 2020 season.
Jordan Hicks, RHP, Cardinals
Citing health concerns, Hicks opted out of the 2020 season on July 13. Hicks was angling to return from Tommy John surgery in 2020.
Kohl Stewart, RHP, Orioles
Stewart announced July 31 through the team that he had decided to “pause (his) participation.” He said the “elevated risk” of COVID-19 complications due to his Type 1 diabetes “continues to be of great concern.” Stewart had not pitched in a game this season.