Diamondbacks right-hander Mike Leake is planning to opt out of participating in the 2020 season, Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports (via Twitter). Leake becomes the first known player to choose not to play amid public health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, although others will surely follow suit.
D-backs general manager Mike Hazen has confirmed the decision, tweets Zach Buchanan of The Athletic. The details surrounding Leake’s decision aren’t known, nor need they be shared. As Hazen went on to tell reporters: “I think those conversations are personal in nature” (Twitter link via the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro). Leake’s agent, Danny Horwits, offered the following statement (via ESPN’s Jeff Passan):
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, was in the final season of a five-year, $80MM contract originally signed with the Cardinals — although he’s since been traded to Seattle and then Arizona. He’d have earned a prorated $16MM salary this season — about $5.5MM — and had a $5MM buyout on an option for the 2021 season. MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets that Leake will not be paid in 2020, which suggests that his decision is not due to concerns about his own health but rather the health of close-proximity family and loved ones. Under the agreement reached between the league and union last week, only players who are deemed high-risk themselves are entitled to receive salary and service time after opting out.
Under the terms of Leake’s previous trades, the Cardinals were set to pay $4MM to the Mariners this season to cover a portion of Leake’s salary. The Mariners, meanwhile, were on the hook for as much of $9MM of Leake’s salary, which was to be paid to the D-backs in deferred installments. Those payments will now presumably be forgiven. As for the $5MM buyout on Leake’s 2021 option, that does not pertain to the 2020 season and should therefore still remain on the table. The Mariners are also responsible for that sum under the terms of last summer’s trade.
With Leake suddenly and unexpectedly out of the rotation picture in Arizona, the D-backs will likely rely on the quartet of Madison Bumgarner, Robbie Ray, Zac Gallen and Luke Weaver to lead the rotation. Merrill Kelly could be in line to retake the fifth spot, although he’ll face some competition from younger arms like Alex Young, Jon Duplantier and, if healthy, Corbin Martin. Arizona will also have a 40-man roster spot opened up with Leake no longer occupying a spot.