The team announced Monday that both players are opting out of the upcoming MLB season, which begins in late July:
CAA Baseball, the agency that represents Zimmerman, shared a statement from the two-time All-Star:
The Athletic's Britt Ghiroli reported that two to three other Nationals players "are still deciding" about their availability as well.
Zimmerman had previously expressed his reservations in an essay for the Associated Press:
"I have a 3-week-old baby. My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over.
"There's a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer; it's everybody's individual choice.
"At the end of the day, does a player feel comfortable going to the field every day and -- in my case, more importantly -- feel comfortable coming home every day and feel like they're not putting anyone else in danger?"
Injuries have prevented Zimmerman from being a mainstay in the Nationals' lineup in recent years. Only twice since 2013 has he made 100-plus appearances.
The 35-year-old might have benefited from the adoption of the universal designated hitter across MLB in 2020, though, since it would've lessened his risk of injury while allowing him to contribute offensively for Washington.
Ross, on the other hand, was slated for a more defined role as the team's No. 5 starter. The veteran right-hander made 27 appearances—only nine of which were starts—for the Nats in 2019. He finished with a 4.59 FIP and a 1.67 WHIP, per Baseball Reference.
Jesse Dougherty @dougherty_jesse
There are baseball implications to these decisions, should a season be played. But this is what stands out to me: Joe Ross was in line to be the Nationals' fifth starter this summer. It could have been a big opportunity. That makes the decision feel that much more significant.
The team will likely have to turn to Erick Fedde to fill out the rotation. The 27-year-old struggled in the role a year ago, averaging 4.7 strikeouts and 3.8 walks per nine innings. His 5.34 FIP was also the worst on the team among qualifying pitchers, according to Baseball Reference.
Danny Horwits, the agent for Mike Leake, announced Monday the Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher is opting out for 2020. The 32-year-old was the first MLB player to take the step amid the COVID-19 pandemic.