Leake, Zimmerman, Ross First Trio of Players to Opt Out of MLB Season
The 2020 major league baseball season was expected to begin with Opening Day on March 26. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic that handcuffed the sports world led to a delay in the start of their season. Since that point in time, we’ve seen a lot of back and forth between the players and owners about trying to hammer out the financial ramifications of taking the field this season. After a ton of negotiating and posturing between the two sides in the media, the league ended up making the decision to set the schedule on their own and a 60-game slate is scheduled to take place beginning in late July.
With that said, the players are expected to return for a second spring training of sorts beginning Wednesday, July 1. Full team workouts are expected to get underway on Friday, July 3 with the season scheduled to begin on July 23. In a way to try and get a little bit of cash in order to offset all that has been lost by not playing for several months this season, MLB worked out a sponsorship for the second spring training. That’s right, Camping World shelled out some bucks to MLB in order to be the sponsor of what is being called “Camping World Summer Camp”, beginning July 1, which is the mandatory report date.
Now, much like the NBA has faced with players opting out of returning to play as they prepare to restart their season next month, MLB is already dealing with an attrition rate as players have made their decisions to not take the field this season due to the pandemic public knowledge. As of Monday evening, three players have already made the announcement that they were choosing not to play in the 2020 season.
Mike Leake of the Arizona Diamondbacks was the first player to opt out of playing this season. He was 12-11 with a 4.29 ERA, a 1.289 WHIP, 27 walks, 127 strikeouts and allowed a major-league high 41 homers over 197 innings over 32 starts split between Seattle and Arizona. Leake’s reasons for opting out were not made readily available but he was slated to make $16 million had this been a full season. He’ll be a free agent in 2021 and was going to be fighting for a starting spot in the rotation in a group headlined by Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray.
Later on Monday, a pair of players from the defending champion Washington Nationals opted out from playing in 2020. Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross both chose to sit out the campaign with Zimmerman stating that his reasoning was for the health of himself and his family. It marks the first time that the Nationals will start a season in the nation’s capital without Zimmerman, who started his major league career in 2005, the year that the Nationals began play after moving from Montreal.
“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. Everyone knows how much it means to me to be part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year. Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support.”
Ross is also opting out of the season. He was expected to battle for a spot in the back of the Nationals’ rotation with Austin Voth and Erick Fedde. Ross was 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA, a 1.672 WHIP, 33 walks and 57 strikeouts over 64 innings in the regular season in 27 appearances, nine starts. As a starting pitcher, he was 4-2 with a 3.02 ERA, a 1.455 WHIP, 22 walks and 38 strikeouts over 44.2 innings of work. Washington will still maintain his rights as this marked the second of four arbitration seasons. He was expected to be a free agent after the 2021 season but that may end up being pushed back to 2022 at this stage.
These were the first three players to step aside and determine that they wouldn’t play this season. There likely will be others and it’s a matter of time until we find out who else may make that tough decision.