- Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross announce they will not play in 2020
- Nationals still have sixth-best odds (+1800) to win 2020 World Series
- Diamondbacks SP Mike Leake has also opted out of playing
The Washington Nationals will look quite a bit different than they did the last time we saw them. While many of the key cogs, such as Stephen Strasburg, Juan Soto, and Max Scherzer, will be back, a few big-name players won’t be suiting up for the reigning World Series champions when the 2020 season gets underway in less than a month.
The franchise’s longest-tenured player, Ryan Zimmerman, announced Monday that he won’t be playing this season. The 35-year-old issued a statement that said, “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.”
Zimmerman Re-Signed in January
Zimmerman, who was the Nationals’ first-ever draft pick following their move from Montreal in 2005, signed a one-year deal worth $2 million to stay with the only team he’s ever known earlier this offseason.
While he is clearly beyond the prime of his career, the veteran did have some big moments during the team’s unexpected run to a title last fall. The right-handed hitter slashed .257/.321/.415 with six homers and 27 runs batted in across 52 regular-season appearances in 2019. However, he went on to hit another pair of home runs during the postseason, including a dinger in Game 1 of the World Series against Houston.
Zimmerman made it clear that he does not plan to retire just yet:
Statement from Ryan Zimmerman. Not retiring. https://t.co/mVgzJCm5OT
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 29, 2020
Before deciding against playing, Zimmerman wrote in a blog post, “I have a three-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. There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice.”
Ross Also Opts Out
Zimmerman’s teammate, pitcher Joe Ross, has also decided to sit out the season. Ross, 27, went 4-4 with an ERA north of 5.00 in 27 games last season. He had been in line to compete for a job as Washington’s No. 5 starter this season.
In a statement, the Nationals said, “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. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year. We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.”
Zimmerman would have likely served as the Nationals’ backup first baseman behind newcomer Eric Thames, who joined the team as a free agent this past winter. Zimmerman likely would have seen plenty of playing time against left-handed pitchers, and he also would have been in line to earn some extra at-bats now that the designated hitter has been installed in the National League.
However, Washington will now likely give Howie Kendrick and Asdrubal Cabrera more playing time at first base, while Brandon Snyder has a better shot at claiming a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Nats Still Have Favorable World Series Odds
The departures of Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon will leave Washington’s lineup without a couple of proven right-handed bats. Even so, the Nationals are still listed among the favorites to win the World Series this season. Washington currently checks in at +1800 to win it all, which gives them the sixth-best World Series odds of any team. Only the Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Braves, and Twins have better odds. The Nats and Rays are both at +1800.
Earlier Monday, Arizona Diamondbacks right-hander Mike Leake decided against participating in the 2020 season, as well. Leake, Zimmerman, and Ross are the only players to have opted out as of this writing, though more are expected to follow suit in the coming days.