Mike Leake is putting the health of his family and over a $5.6 million salary and his love of baseball.
He won’t be the only one.
Leake, 32, became the first known player in Major League Baseball to opt out of his contract rather than play for the Arizona Diamondbacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Leake pitched briefly for the Giants in 2015.
The news came from Leake’s agent Danny Horwits, who told the Athletic:
“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.”
In addition, former Bishop O’Dowd High star Joe Ross of the Washington Nationals and teammate Ryan Zimmerman will also reportedly opt out of their contracts and not play in a 60-game season that is scheduled to begin July 23.
Major League Baseball teams have assembled pools of 51 players to begin a “summer camp” phase this week in order to get ready for a season shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Leake, a 10-year veteran, has a record of 105-98 with Cincinnati, St. Louis, Seattle, St. Louis, Arizona and the Giants. Acquired by trade in 2015, Leake was 2-5 with a 4.07 earned run average in nine starts for the Giants and then left in free agency to join the Cardinals in 2016, signing a five-year, $80 million contract.
Arizona traded infield prospect Jose Cabellaro and sent cash to Seattle last July to acquire Leake, who was 3-3 with a 4.35 earned run average in 10 starts.
The opt-outs by Ross and Zimmerman were first reported by NBC Sports Washington. Ross will lose more than $550,000 in salary off his one-year contract, while Zimmerman stood to make just over $740,000, the prorated figure from his $2 million salary.
Ross, 26, is a five-year veteran with a 21-19 record. The younger brother of Giants right-hander Tyson Ross, Joe Ross was a first-round draft pick (No. 25 overall) by the San Diego Padres in 2011 draft. after being one of the Bay Area’s most dominant high school pitchers at O’Dowd.
Traded to Washington in 2015, Ross pitched in two games with one start in the World Series win over Houston last last season, going 0-1 and giving up six hits and four earned runs in seven innings. Ross was the Game 6 starter when Max Scherzer couldn’t start because of nerve irritation in his neck.
Zimmerman, 35, has played 15 seasons with Washington, said recently he was debating whether or not to play.
“I have a 3-week-old baby,” Zimmerman told the Associated Press. “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.”