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MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert reports that Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake opts out of the 2020 season. He is, at the present moment, the only MLB player to have opted out of the season, but it is highly unlikely he will be the only one.
Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, Leake’s agent Dan Horwits said, “During this global pandemic, Mike and his family had many discussions about playing this season. They took countless factors into consideration, many of which are personal to him and his family. After thorough consideration, he has chosen to opt out of playing in 2020. This was not an easy decision for Mike. He wishes the best of luck and health for his Diamondback teammates this season and he’s looking forward to 2021.”
Leake, 32, is in the final guaranteed year of his contract. Both sides can agree on a mutual option worth $18 million for the 2021 season, otherwise Leake will be bought out for $5 million. In 2019, between the Mariners and D-Backs, the right-hander posted a 4.29 ERA with 127 strikeouts and 27 walks across 197 innings of work.
Leake’s absence will likely mean that Alex Young and Merrill Kelly will duke it out for the fifth spot in the D-Backs’ rotation.
On Friday, Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman wrote for the Associated Press that he was “still deciding whether to play” this season amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Unless the player opting out is considered “high risk,” he will forfeit both pay and service time in doing so.
Last year, Nationals reliever Daniel Hudson received criticism when he left his team during the NLCS for the birth of his child. If players receive blowback for that, there will no doubt be critics of players who choose to sit out the season because of COVID-19. It will be completely undeserved, just as Hudson’s criticism was undeserved. Players should receive full support from their teams, from their peers, from the media, and from fans for sitting out the season for any reason.