Phoenix –It’s always a stressful time of year for 30 GMs in Major League Baseball, who are assessing talent, juggling the financial implications, and trying to figure out ways to improve their teams as Tuesday’s trading deadline approaches.
Now there is another factor in the calculus – the status of vaccination against COVID-19.
It’s definitely one of the new things you didn’t have to think about,” said Pirates GM Ben Cherington. “I think every team obviously wants to feel that the full range of their roster is available to play, but we’re in a new world and there are personal options.”
These personal choices matter because MLB’s COVID-19 rules affect all 30 teams differently.
Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said the placement of players’ vaccines is impacting trade talks “to an extent,” but he doesn’t think it will be a deciding factor in many deals, especially for teams that don’t have to travel to Canada so soon. future.
Hazen added that the vaccine status is part of the player’s medical file, so there shouldn’t be any secrets, because teams are free to discuss these details.
Being the only MLB team based in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays have by far the toughest limitations. Foreigners who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 are not allowed to enter Canada, with limited exceptions that require a 14-day quarantine.
Unvaccinated players are placed on the restricted list, where they are neither paid nor receive significant periodic service time.
This means that any promotions for the Blue Jays – who are in the middle of the MLS playoff race – will almost certainly be vaccinated. It also means that teams traveling to Toronto for the rest of the regular season should consider if they’d like to add a player who might miss out on an important series.
The Yankees, Guardians, Rays, Orioles, Red Sox, Angels and Cubs are all playing games in Toronto after the August 2 deadline. Toronto’s Ross Atkins, GM, declined an interview request through a team spokesperson.
Several teams have gone to Canada this season without some of their best players. The Kansas City Royals were the most extreme example, losing 10 players before their trip north of the US border.
Several of these players – including hitters Andrew Benintende and Wyatt Merrifield – are said to have been the subject of business talks. Benintendi traded against the Yankees last week. Says Merrifield, Twice All-Star may be willing To get vaccinated if that means playing post-season games in Toronto.
Unless all of these vulnerable players change their minds, it sure seems like an advantage in their court for the Blue Jays. They are 34-21 in Toronto and only 23-24 on the road this season.
The absence of regular season matches is a problem, but the playoffs are more important.
The Blue Jays are on track for a post-season achievement, so in theory, the road to the world championship could pass through Canada. For a team like the Yankees, that would put them at a disadvantage.
Benintendi said he is considering getting vaccinated.
“I’m open minded about it,” Benintende said after the trade. “I’m not against that, but time will tell as we get closer, but at the moment I’m just focused on getting here, getting comfortable, getting to know the players and winning baseball games.”
There is also the possibility that Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions will continue in the coming years, which could affect long-term deals. The hypotheses are almost endless.
Of course, there is also a chance that the Blue Jays will be eliminated from the knockout race and none of the direct doomsday scenarios will take effect. Many have taken on the role of Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who said he did not discuss vaccines with Benentende in the immediate aftermath of the July 27 deal.
“We’ll cross that bridge if and when we have to,” Boone said.
Associated Press sportswriter Will Graves in Pittsburgh and freelance writer Scott Orgera in New York contributed to this story.
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