Nationals outfielder Juan Soto has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the team’s regular-season opener tonight against the Yankees. ESPN’s Jeff Passan was the first to report the news Thursday:
Washington Nationals star Juan Soto has tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss tonight's season opener against the New York Yankees, sources tell ESPN.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 23, 2020
Soto is asymptomatic thus far according to Nationals GM Mike Rizzo.
This feels like the biggest roadblock that MLB’s return-to-play plan has faced thus far. A star player — quite possibly the best player on the defending World Series champions — tested positive and potentially put his teammates, coaches, and opponents at risk despite the league’s safety protocols and testing program.
As The Athletic’s Britt Ghiroli points out, the Nationals dodged a major bullet (at least from a competitive standpoint — almost certainly not from a safety perspective) with Washington, D.C. recently loosening its rules to provide more flexibility for those who have been in contact with COVID-positive individuals. After going through MLB’s contact-tracing program, the Nationals determined that everyone else on the roster is fit to participate in tonight’s season opener.
Had the city of DC not changed their rules, a positive test for Soto would have forced many others into a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Am told the team is doing its due diligence with contact tracing and Soto is doing "fine" all things considered.— Britt Ghiroli (@Britt_Ghiroli) July 23, 2020
We’ll see if this goes on to have adverse effects on the Nationals from a health standpoint as testing continues, but for now it’s going to weaken their roster from a baseball standpoint as they try to defend their World Series title.