After deciding not to play during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond announced in a Sunday morning Instagram Stories post that “for now” he does not plan to play in 2021.
The post from @i_dez20 reads:
“Over the last few months, I’ve had tough conversations. I’ve asked a lot of questions and done a lot of thinking. For now, I’ve decided to opt out of the 2021 season. My desire to be with my family is greater than my desire to go back and play baseball under these circumstances. I’m going to continue to train and watch how things unfold.
“This impacts a lot of people, some positively and some negatively, and I own that. At the end of the day, this weighs on me more than anyone but I’m following my heart and I feel good about my decision. I’ve let my teammates know, as well as the coaching staff and front office, and they have all been extremely understanding and supportive. I wish nothing but the best for the entire Rockies organization and have let them know I am willing to do whatever I can to help them from afar.”
The Rockies confirmed the decision and expect to address it at some point Sunday.
Desmond, 35, has played in parts of 11 seasons, including 2017-19 with the Rockies after signing a five-year deal worth $70 million. Last year, before the Rockies reconvened for Summer Camp, Desmond announced on Instagram that he would not play. He cited the pandemic, social injustice and his desire to help in his hometown of Sarasota, Fla., by reviving youth baseball.
Desmond has been active through Newtown Connection, designed “to inspire youth in the Newtown community within Sarasota to engage with baseball in a meaningful way, regardless of financial circumstances, experience, athleticism, or skill.” Desmond also continued his longtime project, “End NF with Ian Desmond,” an effort to raise funds for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Neurofibromatosis causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body, according to CTF.
Desmond’s efforts earned him the Rockies’ 2020 nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award, which goes annually to a player who demonstrates the values of “commitment to community and understanding the value of helping others.”
The expectation was the right-handed-hitting Desmond would compete for starts and be a valuable hitter against left-handed pitching. Left-handed-hitting Raimel Tapia used last year’s opportunity to take the left-field spot; he established himself as the leadoff hitter and batted .321.
Before Sunday’s decision was revealed, teammates said Desmond was a key figure in group text messages encouraging players to stay focused in the aftermath of the Rockies’ trade of star third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals.
By not playing last season, Desmond was not paid his adjusted salary of $5,555,556. Players under some specific, health-related circumstances could “opt out” and receive salary, but Desmond did not fall into that category.
Desmond’s contract for 2021 calls for an $8 million salary. He has a 2022 option worth $15 million or a $2 million buyout.