As most players prepare to report to summer training camp, longtime Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman writes in a guest piece for the Associated Press that he’s “still deciding whether to play” in 2020. Like many players throughout the league, while he’s not personally a high-risk patient in the event of a positive COVID-19 test, he has loved ones who are of greater concern. Writes Zimmerman:
When it comes down to it, it’s a decision not just for me, but for my family as well. I have a 3-week-old baby. My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over.
Under the health and safety protocols laid out by Major League Baseball and agreed to by the Players Association, Zimmerman wouldn’t receive service time or be paid, should he choose to opt out. Only players who are high-risk cases themselves, as determined by team medical personnel, are eligible for that benefit.
Zimmerman will be far from the only player making a decision of this nature in the coming days. High-risk individuals exist throughout the league, be it due to recent battles with cancer, preexisting respiratory conditions or any number of other risk-increasing conditions. The number of players with such risks is surely higher than most are aware of, and the number of players with concerns more in line with Zimmerman is even greater yet. There will very likely be some players who opt not to play in 2020, and Zimmerman provides a candid and thoughtful look at the factors he’s weighing in a piece that’s well worth a full read.
This past offseason, Zimmerman inked a one-year, $2MM contract to return to the Nationals for what would his 16th season with the only franchise he’s ever known. Foot injuries limited him to just 52 games in 2019 and likely impacted his performance at the plate, but he batted a combined .289/.350/.542 in 899 plate appearances from 2017-18.