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David Price, Felix Hernandez opt out of 2020 MLB season amid coronavirus pandemic

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The list of opt-outs grows to eight MLB players, plus some coaches

Los Angeles Dodgers Introduce Mookie Betts and David Price Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Two more major stars have opted out of the 2020 MLB season, which will be played under the specter of the coronavirus pandemic. Former Cy Young pitchers David Price of the LA Dodgers, and Felix Hernandez of the Atlanta Braves, will sit out this summer.

Price reported his own decision on Twitter, while Hernandez’s announcement was made by his agent and specifically cited fear of the virus.

Price and Felix are only the latest to exercise their right to opt out of the season. They join a list that already included 1B Ryan Zimmerman, RHP Joe Ross, and C Welington Castillo (link) of the Washington Nationals, RHP Mike Leake of the Arizona Diamondbacks, OF Ian Desmond of the Colorado Rockies, and free agent pitcher Tyson Ross (link). Players who choose to opt out without receiving at-risk medical exemptions from team doctors will forfeit their 2020 salary and won’t receive any service time for the season.

Update (8:30 a.m.): A ninth player opted out Monday morning, OF Nick Markakis of the Braves (link).

While they aren’t the first to step aside, the news on Price and Felix is especially relevant to A’s fans. Although he’s now in the NL East and well into the decline phase of his career at age 34, Felix was a longtime division rival of the A’s during his 15 years with the Seattle Mariners and remains a beloved fan favorite even among opposing teams. Meanwhile, Price is now with the Dodgers after an offseason trade from Boston, meaning he may have faced Oakland this summer as his new Los Angeles squad is set to play them four times.

Price is coming off a subpar season in 2019, but the 34 year old still has a reputation as one of the better pitchers in the league. The lefty was awarded a Cy Young in 2012 while with the Rays, and later helped lead Boston to a ring in 2018. He said the following about his decision:

After considerable thought and discussion with my family and the Dodgers, I have decided it is in the best interest of my health and my family’s health for me to not play this season. I will miss my teammates and will be cheering for them throughout the season and on to a World Series victory. I’m sorry I won’t be playing for you this year, but look forward to representing you next year.

Stay safe, be well, and be kind. And Go Dodgers!

Price was set to earn nearly $12 million this year, a 60-game prorated portion of his full $32 million salary. The Dodgers offered their full support to the pitcher and look forward to his return in 2021, as he’s still under contract for two more seasons. Felix, the 2010 AL Cy Young winner, was on a minor league deal with Atlanta after struggling the last few years, and will become a free agent next winter.

In addition to these players, a few MLB coaches will also sit out 2020. Braves first base coach Eric Young Sr (link), Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz (link), and Indians bench coach Brad Mills (link) have all chosen to stay home. Kuntz and Mills are both in their 60s, while Young is 53 and lands in the high-risk category for undisclosed reasons. At the end of June, the Twins elected to sideline two of their coaches for the summer.

So far, nobody from the Oakland A’s has opted out of the 2020 season.