Atlanta Braves outfielder Nick Markakis has opted out of the 2020 season.
Markakis said Monday that the decision was right for himself and his family, made after talking with teammate Freddie Freeman, who is battling the coronavirus.
“I was excited to get back to playing just as much as everybody else,” Markakis said, per Grant McAuley of the Braves Radio Network. “I think the biggest thing is I talked to Freddie Freeman and just hearing the way he sounded on the phone just opened my eyes.”
Manager Brian Snitker said the decision was a “tough call” for Markakis.
“Ultimate pro. Been thinking long and hard about it,” Snitker said on a Zoom call with reporters.
Markakis is the second Atlanta player to opt out of the upcoming 60-game season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, joining former Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez.
In November, Markakis agreed to a one-year, $4 million deal for the 2020 campaign after the team declined his $6 million option.
Markakis, 36, batted .285 with nine home runs and 62 RBI in 2019 despite missing 46 games because of injury.
He was an All-Star and a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner in 2018 when he batted .297 with 14 homers and 93 RBIs. His numbers through 14 seasons with the Braves (2015-19) and Baltimore Orioles (2006-14) include a .288 average, 188 home runs, 1,031 RBIs and 2,355 hits.
The loss of Markakis could be costly for the Braves. With All-Star first baseman Freeman indefinitely unavailable, Markakis had been mentioned as a potential replacement at first base.
While many people with the virus are asymptomatic, Chelsea Freeman tweeted on Saturday that it had hit her husband “like a ton of bricks.”