Chicago Cubs Among Teams That Could Play 2020 Without Key Players, Analyst Says

A general view of Wrigley Field where the Chicago Cubs were scheduled to open the season Monday March 30
Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

The Chicago Cubs are one of several Major League Baseball teams that could face a season without key players, according to Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago. The analyst wrote an article on Friday that asked what the 2020 season is going to look like if several of the bigger names decide that they don’t want to play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Wittenmeyer listed players like Mike Trout, Sean Doolittle, and the Cubs’ Yu Darvish as just some of the big names that could elect to sit out the year. The analyst laid out a couple of different reasons why some superstars might sit out. At the top of the list of reasons is the ongoing discussion about what players are getting paid this year.

The MLBPA and owners already worked out a deal for reduced salaries when spring training was canceled due to COVID-19. The owners have put forth a new revenue-sharing plan the players haven’t accepted yet. Some have come out against it. Ian Snell is likely the loudest voice, saying he will not play for one penny less than his 2020 salary. Wittenmeyer thinks salary issues will be a bone of contention, but not the only one to think about.

“Nothing can happen on that until the testing and safety guidelines are worked out — which for many players could be a much bigger issue. And that could remain an issue even after an agreement to start play is eventually reached.” Wittenmeyer wrote. He also believes that any agreement between the owners and the players is going to have to include an option for those that don’t want to play because they are concerned about catching the virus.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred claimed last week the league would not try to force players who were uncomfortable playing amid the pandemic to come to work. “If there are players with either health conditions or just their own personal doubts, we would never try to force them to come back to work. They can wait until they feel they’re ready to come,” Manfred told CNN in a video later posted on Twitter.

Trout previously said he’s concerned about his pregnant wife. She’s due in August and the preliminary safety plans would seem to mean he’d have to stay aware from her.

Cubs players have voiced concern as well. Yu Darvish made it clear he’s worried about playing with the virus still ravaging the country. Wittenmeyer said Darvish didn’t respond this week to multiple requests for his take on returning to play in 2020. The analyst pointed out players like Anthony Rizzo and Jon Lester are potentially at higher risk should they get it, because they are cancer survivors. He believes all three could sit out the season and they may not be the only Cubs players deciding to wait until 2021 to return to the field.