Players going on the restricted list ahead of road trips to Toronto has become a fact of life around MLB, but no team has been left as short-handed as the Royals will be for their road series vs. the Blue Jays, which begins Thursday.
Ten players will be scratched from the roster because they do not meet Canada’s vaccination requirements: Andrew Benintendi, Whit Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, Brady Singer, Brad Keller, Dylan Coleman, Michael Taylor, Kyle Isbel, MJ Melendez, and Cam Gallagher will all miss the four-game set .
The Royals will call up players from the taxi squad and minors to fill out their 26-man active roster for the series.
While the number of missing players is impactful by itself, not being on the roster this weekend is especially consequential for Benintendi and Merrifield, both of whom are thought to be on the trade block ahead of the Aug. 2 deadline. Benintendi is the last-place Royals’ lone All-Star representative.
Merrifield, who missed the past two games because of a toe injury, discussed his impending absence with reporters Wednesday, per Anne Rogers of MLB.com.
“Right or wrong, I didn’t do it on a whim. It’s been a long thought process, because I understand what Canada has in place right now. That’s the only reason that I would think about getting it right now, is to go to Canada,” Merrifield said. “Something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that changes.”
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Benintendi said in a statement that he made a “personal decision. And I’m going to leave it at that.”
What does this mean for the Royals at the trade deadline?
Players being unvaccinated doesn’t have to scare off interested teams — only games in Toronto are affected .
But for teams that could run into Toronto in the postseason, vaccination status becomes a much more pressing concern. Benintendi, easily the Royals’ hottest trade commodity, has been tied to the Yankees. With a series in Toronto in the second half, the entire roster vaccinated and the potential to see the Blue Jays in the postseason, the Yankees may want to look at other trade options.
A reunion with the Red Sox is slightly more unlikely, too. Boston lost a game in Toronto after not having closer Tanner Houck available. Outfielder Jarren Duran told Boston media after missing the series that he would get vaccinated.
While Benintendi’s vaccination status may not be a deal-breaker, it will likely affect his market.