After a delayed start due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MLB season has eventually gotten off the ground. But due to the health and safety concerns, baseball players have been allowed to opt out of the season if they choose.
Players who the league deems as high risk will receive their full salary (prorated to the 60-game season) and service time, but all other players will not.
Teams may place players who opt out on the restricted list, so they do not count towards their 40-man roster. However, that does not rule the players out for the season. Players can opt back in at any time, as Braves outfielder Nick Markakis did just 24 days after telling the club he would sit out the season.
It's worth remembering that there are a million reasons why players may not want to compete this season, some of which they may not make public. And the long-term effects of COVID-19 are not entirely clear yet. There are a range of outcomes between an asymptomatic experience and death. Just take, for example, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert's long-lasting loss of smell and Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez's myocarditis.
Here's a complete running list of MLB players who have opted out:
Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Note: Leake became the first player to opt out on June 29. Of note, because the Cincinnati Reds put him on their Opening Day roster as a rookie in 2010, he has already accumulated exactly 10 years of service time, which makes him eligible for a full pension. The 32-year-old starter may still pitch in 2021 even if the D-backs decline his mutual option, but his financial stability allowed him more flexibility to make the right decision for himself.
Ryan Zimmerman, 1B, Washington Nationals
Note: Zimmerman was mulling retirement after the Nats won the franchise's first World Series last October before ultimately returning on a one-year, $2 million deal in January. He announced on June 29 that he would not play this season in part because his mother is at high risk and he has three young children, including a newborn.
Joe Ross, RHP, Washington Nationals
Note: The Nationals announced that Ross would not play this season on the same day as the Zimmerman news. Ross, who was in his second year of arbitration, was set to hit free agency after the 2021 season but will remain under team control for two more seasons after 2020.
Ian Desmond, CF, Colorado Rockies
Note: Demsond announced his decision to opt out of the 2020 season in an emotional Instagram post on June 29. He discussed not only the health risks to himself, his pregnant wife, and his four children, but also the need for him to help out in his community in the wake of George Floyd's murder and Black Lives Matter protests.
Tyson Ross, RHP, Free Agent
Note: Ross, who is six years older than his brother Joe, announced that he would also sit out the season on July 2 shortly after the Giants released him. Given that he was unlikely to play — in summer camp, let alone the regular season — this was not a major surprise.
Welington Castillo, C, Washington Nationals
Note: On July 3, Castillo became the third Nationals player to opt out, although he had yet to play a game with the club. Castillo signed a minor league deal in January after playing with the White Sox the last two seasons and was expected to serve as depth behind Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki.
David Price, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Note: Price was by far the biggest name to opt out when he announced his decision on Instagram on July 4 in the interest of his and his family's health. His decision was a big hit to the Dodgers, who penciled him in as their third starter after he came over from Boston in the Mookie Betts blockbuster trade. Price has been critical of MLB's safety protocols.
Felix Hernandez, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Note: Hernandez was set to play his first game for a team other than the Mariners before he decided to opt out on July 4. He had a disappointing 6.40 ERA in 2019 (and a 5.55 mark the year before) but appeared in line for a spot in the Braves rotation due to injuries. Hernandez had been considering retirement last fall, so time will tell if this is the last we've seen of King Felix, who turns 35 in April.
Hector Noesi, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Note: Noesi asked out of the 2020 season on July 8 due to family reasons, so he won't get a chance to play for the Pirates after signing a one-year deal. The veteran right-hander threw 27 2/3 disappointing innings for the Marlins last season after taking a three-year hiatus in the KBO, and his MLB future is murky at best.
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
Note: Posey chose to opt out on July 10 in large part because he and his wife adopted identical twins who were born prematurely at 32 weeks. The 2012 MVP wanted to spend time with his family, and after consulting with doctors, he thought this was the safest route.
Michael Kopech, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Note: Kopech became the first big-name prospect to opt out of the season on July 10, although his recovery from Tommy John surgery likely weighed heavily into that decision. The 24-year-old ranks No. 22 overall in MLB.com's prospect rankings and has a fastball that routinely hits 100 mph.
Jordan Hicks, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
Note: Another hard-throwing righty recovering from Tommy John surgery, Hicks opted out of the season three days after Kopech. Because he has Type 1 diabetes, Hicks will receive service time for the season and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, although his lack of recent playing time will likely limit his earning potential next season.
Collin McHugh, RHP, Boston Red Sox
Note: McHugh announced on July 19 that he would opt out of the season after his recovery from an elbow procedure was not moving as quickly as he was hoping. Notably, McHugh was only guaranteed $650,000 this season, and his preseason advance already covered his entire salary. Given that he was unlikely to play and reach any of his incentives, it was an easy choice to rehab with his family instead.
Mark Zagunis, RF, Chicago Cubs
Note: Zagunis opted out on July 23, although he wasn't expected to make much of an impact this season. After making the Cubs' Opening Day roster a year ago, he only hit .250/.325/.333 in 40 plate appearances and was removed from the team's 40-man roster in August 2019.
Tim Collins, LHP, Colorado Rockies
Note: Collins opted out three games into the season on July 27, although he did not make an appearance with his new club since he was not on the Rockies' 30-man active roster. The left-hander has not had an above-replacement-level season since 2013 and will turn 31 before the end of the season.
Kohl Stewart, RHP, Baltimore Orioles
Note Stewart, who has Type-1 Diabetes, became the second high-risk player to opt out on July 31. He made the Orioles active roster after signing on a minor league deal but had not made an appearance yet this season. The former No. 4 overall draft pick in 2013 has a career 4.79 ERA in 62 innings as a reliever and opener.
Isan Diaz, 2B, Miami Marlins
Note: Diaz became the first Marlins player to opt out on Aug. 1, although he was not one of the 18 players to test positive for COVID-19. Still, the decision was not surprising given the state of the team. Diaz later rejoined the team on Sept. 1, although a groin strain ended his season two weeks later.
Lorenzo Cain, CF, Milwaukee Brewers
Note: Cain surprised the baseball world on Aug. 1 when he opted out of the season after a red-hot start in which he was hitting .333/.429/.389. Since he started his five-year, $80 million deal with the Brewers in 2018, he is 18th among outfielders with 7.4 WAR. He'll have two more years left on his deal when he returns in 2021.
Francisco Liriano, LHP, Free Agent
Note: Liriano opted out of the season on Aug. 2 despite reportedly having "multiple guaranteed offers" on the table. The veteran lefty proved effective in 2019 in his full season as a full-time reliever, with a 3.47 ERA over 70 innings, and will attempt to come back in 2021 for his age-37 season.
Yoenis Cespedes, DH, New York Mets
Note: In perhaps the most 2020 moment possible, Cespedes decided to opt out on Aug. 2 due to concerns over COVID-19 but never told the Mets. That led to the team announcing that they didn't know where he was on a social media post that seemed to shame him. It's unclear if this will be the end of his electrifying, but brief major league career.
Shelby Miller, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers
Note: After spending the start of the season at the Brewers' alternative site, the 29-year-old opted out of the season on Aug. 3. The former first-rounder has battled injuries over the last three seasons that have limited him to a 7.79 ERA over 82 total innings.
Marcus Stroman, RHP, New York Mets
Note: Stroman announced his decision to opt out of the season on Aug. 10 due to family and health reasons. Although he had yet to make an appearance while rehabbing from a calf tear, he crucially waited to leave the team until after he accumulated six full years of service time, which will allow him to hit free agency this winter. The Mets acquired Stroman from the Blue Jays last summer for a pair of top pitching prospects and will ultimately only have 11 starts to show for it.
Andrelton Simmons, SS, Los Angeles Angels
Note: Simmons announced his decision to opt out of the rest of the season with less than a week to go on Sept. 22. Although he missed 22 games this season with a left ankle sprain, he was in the midst of a nice bounceback season and hit .297/.346/.356. The 30-year-old is set to hit free agency this fall after finishing a seven-year, $58 million extension he originally signed with the Braves.