Major League Baseball has decided to go ahead with plans for a 60-game 2020 season amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but some players are making the decision to not participate. As part of the league and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) COVID-19 health and safety protocols, any MLB player can decide to opt out of the 60-game 2020 season.
First baseman Ryan Zimmerman and right-hander Joe Ross, teammates on the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals, became the latest players to decide to sit out the abbreviated baseball season, the team announced on Monday. The pair joins Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Mike Leake. Leake became the first known MLB player to opt out when he announced his decision earlier on Monday.
Zimmerman, 35, had previously been undecided about his decision to play this season. He told the Associated Press that there were many complicating factors in the decision, citing his newborn baby and his mother, who has multiple sclerosis and would be considered a high-risk individual.
“After a great deal of thought and given 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 his agency.
Zimmerman will forgo his $6.25 million salary (which would’ve been about $2.3 million in prorated pay for 60 games) in 2020. It’s unclear whether Zimmerman plans to resume his MLB career in 2021, but the longtime National said he was not yet retiring.
“To be clear, I am not retiring at this time. I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020,” said Zimmerman, who debuted with the Nationals in their first season (2005) and has been with the franchise ever since.
Ross, 27, was expected to be a candidate for the Nationals’ final rotation spot. Ross will forgo his $1.5 million salary for 2020 before heading into his final year of salary arbitration in 2021.
In addition to the players opting out, the Minnesota Twins recently confirmed that two of their coaches would sit out for the season for health and safety reasons. Twins bullpen coach Bob McClure, 68, and MLB coach Bill Evers, 66, would both be considered high-risk individuals. The team’s decision came after physical exams that took both their age and preexisting conditions into consideration. Both coaches will still be paid for the 2020 season.
As part of MLB’s return-to-play plan, high-risk players — those with pre-existing medical conditions or compromised immune systems are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 — can decide to opt out of the 2020 season at any point and they would receive both their full salary and service time for the season.
MLB also included an opt-out option for players who may have high-risk family members. For that group, the decision of whether or not they would receive salary or service time will be left up to each individual team.
MLB and the MLBPA have agreed on a “spring” training that starts July 1 and a regular season that begins July 23.