Houston Astros relief pitcher Joe Smith has elected to opt out of the 2020 MLB season, per reports. Smith is the fourteenth major leaguer to do so.
Smith, 36, is a righthanded relief pitcher who signed a two year, $8 million deal with the Houston Astros in December. Smith put up a 1.80 ERA in 25 IP for the Astros in 2019.
Smith, like the majority of those players who have opted out so far, is a veteran who is on the back side of his career, and who has made a significant amount of money in his career to date, making the decision easier from a financial security standpoint. The other major leaguers who are known to have opted out are Mike Leake, Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross, Tyson Ross, Ian Desmond, David Price, Felix Hernandez, Nick Markakis, Buster Posey, Michael Kopech and Jordan Hicks. Of that group, only Hicks, Kopech and Joe Ross have yet to hit free agency, and Hicks was expected to miss the start of the (delayed) season anyone due to having Tommy John surgery last summer.
This is a lower number of players than I would have expected, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a number of other players decide to opt out between now and Opening Day, which is nine days away. We also could see a number of players opt out once the season gets underway, particularly as teams drop out of contention, or if players are seeing their roles reduced.
Under the agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, players who have a health condition that makes them high-risk can opt out and receive their full (pro-rated) salary and get credit for their service time. Players who are not high risk can opt out, but forfeit salary and service time credit.