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 season 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:
Joe Ross (Nationals starting pitcher)
Ross, a 27-year-old Bay Area native who is the younger brother of Tyson, also opted out June 29. 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
Welington Castillo (Nationals catcher)
The 33-year-old signed a minor league deal with the reigning champs in the offseason and was set to be part of their pool:
Dave Martinez: Catcher Welington Castillo has opted out of playing the 2020 season.— Jesse Dougherty (@dougherty_jesse) July 3, 2020
David Price (Dodgers Pitcher)
Price was headed for the No. 3 spot in a rotation built to win it all. He said his decision was in the "best interest of my health and my family's health."
Felix Hernandez (Braves pitcher)
The 2010 AL Cy Young winner was a candidate to fill a rotation spot for a team that should be in the postseason, but his agent made the announcement:
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
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.
Nick Markakis (Braves outfielder)
The veteran outfielder's decision came after Freddie Freeman, Will Smith and other Braves tested positive for COVID-19, which was reportedly a big factor in his decision. Markakis, 36, hit .285 with nine homers last season for Atlanta.
#Braves' Nick Markakis has chosen to opt out for 2020 season.— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) July 6, 2020
Hector Noesi (Pirates pitcher)
Noesi, 33, went 0-3 and posted an 8.46 ERA across 12 appearances with the Miami Marlins last season. Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton announced the news recently:
Hector Noesi has opted out of #Pirates camp, per manager Derek Shelton.— RobBiertempfel (@RobBiertempfel) July 9, 2020
Buster Posey (Giants catcher)
The Giants catcher became the biggest name to opt out of the MLB season to date, announcing Friday he won't play in 2020. Posey and his wife just adopted twin girls who were born prematurely last week, and he cited their health as his primary concern.
"After weighing it for a long time, talking to doctors, I just feel like in the current state that we are right now and these babies being as fragile as they are for the next four months, at minimum, this ultimately wasn't that difficult a decision for me," Posey said. "From a baseball standpoint, it was a tough decision, from a family standpoint and feeling like I'm making a decision to protect our children, I feel like it was relatively easy."
Jordan Hicks (Cardinals Pitcher)
The hardest-throwing man in the game is recovering from Tommy John surgery that he underwent in June of 2019. But he's also a Type 1 Diabetic which as Belleville News-Democrat reporter Jeff Jones says, could lead to complications from coronavirus. Hicks is the first on this list who is known to be high-risk, and thus he will get to keep his 2020 salary and accrue service time as he sits out.
Michael Kopech (White Sox pitcher)
The former top prospect missed the entire 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery. He did not disclose the reasoning behind his decision to opt out.
Collin McHugh (Red Sox pitcher)
Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke announced that the former Astros starter will not be playing in the 2020 season, but did not specify a reason.
Ron Roenicke:— Guerin Austin (@guerinaustin) July 19, 2020
-Collin McHugh is opting out of the season. #RedSox
Isan Diaz (Marlins infielder)
After the Marlins experienced an outbreak with 18 players in the clubhouse testing positive for coronavirus, Diaz decided to opt out of the remainder of the season on Saturday.
Isan Díaz’s statement on Instagram. pic.twitter.com/knCeskVVDK— Daniel Álvarez Montes (@DanielAlvarezEE) August 1, 2020
Lorenzo Cain (Brewers outfielder)
Milwaukee has had several games postponed as a result of positive coronavirus tests in the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse, and a team press release confirmed Saturday that he'll be opting out of the remainder of the season.
Shelby Miller (Brewers pitcher)
The Brewers announced Monday that pitcher Shelby Miller has opted out of the remainder of the season.
RHP Shelby Miller has opted out of the remainder of the 2020 season. pic.twitter.com/7qdBNAmXBB— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) August 3, 2020
Marcus Stroman (Mets pitcher)
Stroman announced that he has opted out of the rest of the 2020 MLB season due to "too many unknowns" around COVID-19.
Marcus Stroman has announced that he'll be opting out of the 2020 MLB season: pic.twitter.com/UMfDYAvAFg— SNY (@SNYtv) August 10, 2020
Willie McGee (Cardinals coach)
The Cardinals have missed a significant number of games as result of coronavirus, and the 61-year-old McGee is choosing to sit out the remainder of the season.