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Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross and Mike Leake Opt Out of MLB Season Citing Pandemic

Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross and Mike Leake Opt Out of MLB Season Citing Pandemic

The stories of the Washington Nationals and Ryan Zimmerman are intertwined. The franchise moved from Montreal, where they were known as the Expos, in 2005, the same year they drafted Zimmerman out of college. He reached the major leagues late that season and has been with them ever since, the face of the franchise through the lean seasons, their renaissance and, last year, their first World Series title.

The coronavirus pandemic, however, has ended that streak — or at least put it on pause. Zimmerman announced Monday that he would opt out of the 2020 Major League Baseball season, which is set to begin July 23. He became the most prominent player to do so, joining his teammate Joe Ross, his former teammate Ian Desmond, of the Colorado Rockies, and Mike Leake of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who also bowed out on Monday, days before a second spring training is set to begin.

“I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family,” Zimmerman, a first baseman, said in a statement released by his agents, “and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support.”

Based on the regulations agreed upon by M.L.B. and the players’ union, any player is allowed to opt out of the 2020 season, which is slated to last 60 games. But only those at higher risk of severe illness from the coronavirus because of their medical history will receive pay and service time after opting out.

Zimmerman, who would have earned $740,000 in prorated pay during this shortened season, said in his statement that he had given the decision “a great deal of thought” and cited his family circumstances — he has three young children, including a one-month old son, and his mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1995.

“Everyone knows how much it means to be part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year,” he said.

Over the winter, Zimmerman, 35, re-signed with the Nationals for one year and $2 million. He has made over $133 million in his 15-year career. He said on Monday that he was “not retiring at this time.”

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