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One MLB player says players should be able to opt out of a 2020 season if they feel unsafe

It’s at least worth considering. But would such players be paid?

Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Collin McHugh is a righthanded pitcher who spent the last several seasons with the Houston Astros. He was signed as a free agent by the Boston Red Sox about a week before the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down baseball and other sports and many other businesses.

He appeared on MassLive’s “The Fenway Rundown” podcast with Chris Cotillo (who used to work for SB Nation’s MLB Daily Dish) and what he said about players playing in a potential 2020 MLB season was quite interesting:

McHugh said it’s possible individual players may opt to stay home instead of joining their teams once the MLB season gets underway.

“That’s a sincere possibility,” he said. “I’m a husband, I’m a father. There are many guys in the league with underlying conditions. With preexisting conditions, like diabetes and heart arrhythmias. You look at our coaching staffs, there’s tons of guys over 65. Umpires, there’s a lot of guys over 65. When you’re talking about the risk factors here, there are going to be some guys who sincerely have to weigh the risks of what it’s going to take to come back versus staying at home.”

This could be a good idea. McHugh went on to say he probably would not leave his family to play baseball if that’s what MLB required. The current proposal, to play in home cities in empty ballparks, probably would not require that, but what if MLB did allow players to opt out of playing with the risk factors that McHugh cites?

Most likely, owners would want any players who opted out to not be paid. That wouldn’t be an unreasonable request. Players and owners agreed in March that any player who was active in 2019 would get a full year’s service time for 2020 and players agreed to $170 million worth of pay. That’s about four percent of the total salaries committed for 2020, and there’s some question about whether salaries would be pro-rated for a shortened season. Players think the March agreement means they’d get paid their entire salaries for 2020. Owners claim the agreement was only for games with fans, which we are not likely to have in 2020. This would all be subject to further negotiation between owners and the MLB Players Association.

If a deal were struck to allow players to opt out but if they did, to not be paid, they’d still get service time and contracts would still expire as scheduled. To use a Cubs example, if Jose Quintana decided to opt out of playing, he’d get 2020 service time and become a free agent at the end of 2020, but not be paid.

I would imagine some players would opt out. So would some coaches and umpires, possibly, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions, as McHugh noted in the interview. If anyone had such a pre-existing condition that a doctor would certify, such an individual would likely have to be paid.

It’s an interesting idea. What do you think?


MLB players should be permitted to opt out of playing in a shortened 2020 season...

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Yes, but they should get paid anyway
    (42 votes)
  • 82%
    Yes, and they should not be paid
    (277 votes)
  • 4%
    No, players should not be permitted to opt out
    (16 votes)
335 votes total Vote Now