Rockies: What Ian Desmond’s opt out means for MLB

Ian Desmond has opted out for the second straight season, so will that start a domino effect as the 2021 MLB season approaches?

As the COVID-19 pandemic encroaches on another MLB season, players are sure to opt out again and someone had to be first. Via Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond has announced on Instagram that he plans to opt out of the 2021 campaign.

“For now, I’ve decided to opt out of the 2021 season,” Desmond wrote in an Instagram story. “My desire to be with my family is greater than my desire to go back and play baseball under these circumstances. I’m going to continue to train and watch how things unfold.”

Desmond was one of several players who opted out of the shortened 2020 season, but he’s the first to opt out of this season. As ESPN cited, he will now walk away from a total of $13.56 million — $8 million this season and $5.56 million in prorated salary from last year. This is also the final fully guaranteed year of his contract, as the Rockies have a $15 million option (with $2 million buyout) for 2022.

For the Rockies in 2019, Desmond hit 20 home runs with a .977 OPS against left-handers. So he may still have something left to offer, if he wants to play. Retirement, forced or otherwise looking toward 2022, feels like a possibility. Nightengale has pointed to it.

Will Ian Desmond’s opt out open the floodgates for more?

No player will be faulted for prioritizing health and safety over baseball, for themselves and those close to them, in the current environment. Spring Training has just started, and there’s already been a sprinkling of positive COVID-19 tests.

Desmond did leave the door open to opt back in, starting with “for now” and suggesting he’ll continue to train and “watch how things unfold.” He’s also 35 years old and in the late stages of his career. So it’d be an oversight to miss how the Rockies are not expected to be any good this year, with Nolan Arenado already gone and other good players sure to follow in the near future. A veteran who would surely like to be on a winning team and broader uncertainty easily equals an opt out.

Time will tell if Desmond’s opt out opens the idea for a lot of others to do so too, if someone didn’t want to be first for 2021. But let’s not overreact just yet. The floodgates for opt outs have a small crack, but they are not yet bursting open.