Veteran Braves outfielder Nick Markakis has opted out of the 2020 season, manager Brian Snitker said on Monday. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has delayed the start of the 2020 regular season until late July, a number of players have decided not to play. Markakis joins teammate Felix Hernandez, who was in line to be the Braves' fifth starter this season, as Atlanta players who have opted out. He is the eighth active MLB player to publicly opt out of the 2020 season so far.

The Braves recently announced four cases of COVID-19, including All-Star first baseman Freddie Freeman and veteran reliever Will Smith. Markakis said talking to Freeman "opened his eyes" and also said playing without fans would be "tough."

Markakis, 36, was likely going to serve as the Braves' primary DH in 2020 (National League teams will use the DH this upcoming season). He's coming off a 2019 in which he put up a below average OPS+ of 98 but still ran a useful OBP of .356. Even in decline, Markakis figured to be a useful on-base threat in platoon-advantaged situations in 2020. 

The Braves, who have won the last two NL East titles, figure to be in a tough battle with fellow contenders the Nationals, Mets, and Phillies. Potentially, the loss of Markakis dings the team OBP a bit and affects roster flow, as he was one of just three left-handed bats likely to make the roster. Atlanta could theoretically put together a DH platoon of Yonder Alonso and Adam Duvall, but Markakis' opt-out may also clear the decks for Austin Riley or a nearly ready prospect like Cristian Pache or Drew Waters

The COVID-19 virus can cause symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While some patients show mild symptoms and recover, others develop life-threatening complications, such as pneumonia, and suffer long-term organ damage. The immunocompromised or those with conditions like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease appear to be especially prone to serious, life-threatening cases of COVID-19.