Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross are opting out of the 2020 season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic "for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones," the team announced Monday.
Zimmerman, 35, was the Nationals' first draft pick when the franchise moved out of Montreal and has played for the team since making his debut on Sept. 1, 2005.
"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 said in a statement.
Zimmerman has been writing a diary for The Associated Press since the coronavirus shut down sports this spring. In the 10th installment last week, he expressed concerns about playing in 2020.
"I have a 3-week-old baby,'' Zimmerman wrote. "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.''
Zimmerman batted .257 with six home runs and 27 RBIs in 171 at-bats last season and had a dramatic home run in Game 1 of the World Series.
"Everyone knows how much it means to me to be a part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year," he said in Monday's statement. "Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization's understanding and support."
He had been scheduled to play on a one-year, $2 million contract this season after the Nationals declined to exercise an $18 million club option.
"To be clear, I am not retiring at this time," he said in the statement. "I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year I'll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for our guys to defend their championship."
Ross, 27, has five seasons of major league experience and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2017. He appeared in 27 games last season, going 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA, and was in line to compete to be the Nationals' fifth starter.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo issued a statement of support Monday.
"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 and Ross became the second and third players known to opt out of the 2020 season on Monday, following Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.