Lorenzo Cain’s COVID-related departure intensifies the sense that the 2020 MLB pennant race has, more than anything, become a survival test.
Lorenzo Cain’s decision, announced Saturday, to opt-out of playing in 2020, makes him the 16th MLB player to go home rather than deal with the growing challenges of playing a season while coping with a potentially lethal viral adversary.
It also intensifies the image that the 2020 season is becoming a case of Last Team Standing. To date six of the 30 teams have had to postpone multiple games due to COVID-related concerns, and eight others have lost one or more players who elected to stay home rather than take their chances of being exposed to the virus.
More from Call to the Pen
That means the COVID virus has already directly affected nearly half of the game’s 30 teams. The only divisions without a directly impacted team to date are the AL Central and AL West.
Several of the players who have elected not to play this season are veterans who, like Cain, were viewed as central to their club’s potential for success during the abbreviated 2020 race.
They include such prominent figures as Dodger pitcher David Price and Giants catcher Buster Posey. The Dodgers are 5-3 in their first eight games without the pitcher who was supposed to be their No. 3 starter. But the team’s ace, Clayton Kershaw, is on the 10-day injured list while projected No. 2 Walker Buehler was batted around by the Houston Astros in his July 28 debut, which was delayed by preparation issues.
Acquired in a winter trade with Boston, Price has two years and $64 million remaining on his deal with the Dodgers.
The Giants owe Posey slightly less than $42.2 million through 2022. But the team can reduce that to $25 million by exercising a $3 million buyout of the 2022 season when Posey would be 35.
Without Posey, the bulk of the Giants catching duties has been carried by Tyler Heineman, who was signed as a minor league free agent over the winter. Heineman is hitting .294.
Click above for a look at other players who have elected not to take the field in 2020 out of COVID-related concerns.