Neither Ryan Zimmerman nor Joe Ross will suit up to play for the Nationals in 2020, according to respective reports from Mark Zuckerman of MASNsports.com and Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic. The D.C. pair joins Diamondbacks right-hander Mike Leake among the first of what figure to be many players choosing not to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” general manager Mike Rizzo confirmed in a statement. “We are one hundred percent supportive of their decision not to play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.”
Zimmerman outlined his reasoning last week in a guest piece for the Associated Press, candidly discussing his concern with having a newborn daughter and a mother who has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Those understandable family concerns have prompted Zimmerman to forgo the year of service time and the prorated $2MM salary he’d have collected in 2020 had he indeed played. Zimmerman released the following statement today, via his agents at CAA Baseball:
After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances — three young children, including a newborn, and a mother at high risk — I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season. Everyone knows how much it means to me to be a part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year. Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support. To be clear, I am not retiring at this time. I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year, I’ll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for the guys to defend our championship.
Zimmerman likely wouldn’t have been the everyday lineup cornerstone that he’s been for much of his career in D.C., but the 35-year-old was in line to serve as a part-time first baseman and (under this year’s altered rules) designated hitter. His decision to sit out should lead to more at-bats for both Howie Kendrick and Eric Thames, among others.
As for Ross, his decision was surely difficult. Not yet established as a surefire big league starter, he was in line to serve as the Nationals’ fifth starter. Playing out the 2020 season would’ve given the 27-year-old Ross a share of a prorated $1.5MM salary and pushed him north of five years of MLB service, bringing him within a year of free agency. Now, unless Ross himself has been deemed a high-risk player by team medical personnel, he’ll waive both that salary and service time. That can’t be an easy decision to make, and it serves as a reminder of the concerns that many players harbor — particularly if they live with or are in close proximity to at-risk loved ones.
With Ross now on the sidelines for the season, it’s likely that right-handers Austin Voth (profiled here as an intriguing rotation candidate himself earlier this spring) and Erick Fedde will get a look at the back of the rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Anibal Sanchez.