White Sox right-hander Michael Kopech is the latest MLB player to opt out of the truncated 60-game 2020 season in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team confirmed the news Friday afternoon:
Kopech had not reported to the team’s summer camp due to an issue that had previously been deemed a “personal matter.” It’s unclear what that matter was or whether it was the driving force behind his decision not to pitch this year.
Michael Kopech is not in Chicago. Has been excused with permission from the club to not report to attend to a personal matter. No time frame for his return at this point.— Scott Merkin (@scottmerkin) July 3, 2020
While there have been several aging veterans who have passed up on opportunities to re-establish themselves this season and opted out instead, Kopech’s decision feels like the boldest one we’ve seen thus far. The 24-year-old has just four games of major-league experience, and while the optimism around the former Red Sox first-rounder — ranked as the White Sox’s third-best prospect and the No. 20 prospect in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline — remains high, he’s now delaying his opportunity to show that he’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and capable of translating his minor-league success to the majors until at least 2021.
Unless Kopech has a condition that makes him high-risk — if he does, it hasn’t been publicly disclosed — he’s giving up his salary for 2020 and a year of service time with this decision. That’s a particularly noble move considering that he’s made less than $1 million in the big leagues and is largely still living off his signing bonus from when he was drafted in 2014. That’s a significant contrast from most of the players who have opted out, almost all of whom — Welington Castillo, Ian Desmond, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Nick Markakis, David Price, Buster Posey, and Ryan Zimmerman, to name a few — have already earned eight- or nine-figure free-agent deals earlier in their respective careers and don’t really need the money or the service time at this point.