COVID-19 vaccination adds new twist to MLB trade deadline

PHOENIX (AP) – It’s always been a stressful time of year for Major League Baseball’s 30 general managers, who are evaluating talent, grappling with financial implications and trying to improve their teams as Tuesday’s trading deadline approaches. Trying to figure out ways.

Now there’s another factor in the wheeling-and-dealing calculus – the COVID-19 vaccination status.

“It’s definitely one of the new things that you don’t have to think about,” said Pirates GM Ben Charrington. “I think every team obviously wants to feel that the full complement of their roster is available to play, but we are in a new world and have individual choices.”

Those personal preferences matter because MLB’s COVID-19 rules affect all 30 teams differently.

Arizona Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen said that the players’ vaccine status was affecting trade talks “to some extent”, but did not believe it would be a deciding factor in many deals, especially for teams that had to compete with Canada. Don’t have to travel. Future.

Hazen said vaccine status is part of a player’s medical file, so it should be no secret, as teams are free to discuss those details.

As the only MLB team based in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays have some of the toughest odds ever. Foreign nationals who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 are not allowed to enter Canada, with limited exceptions that require a 14-day quarantine.

Non-vaccinated players are placed on a restricted list where they are not paid and do not earn major league service time.

That means any upgrade to the Blue Jays — who are right in the middle of the race for the American League playoffs — will almost certainly have to be vaccinated. It also means that teams traveling to Toronto for the rest of the regular season will have to consider whether they are prepared to add a player who could miss a crucial series.

The Yankees, Guardians, Rays, Orioles, Red Sox, Angels and Cubs all play games in Toronto after the August 2 deadline. Toronto GM Ross Atkins declined an interview request through a team spokesman.

Many teams this season have gone to Canada without some of their best players. The most extreme example was the Kansas City Royals, having lost 10 players prior to their journey north of the US border.

Several of those players – including hitters Andrew Benintendi and Whit Merrifield – have reportedly been the subject of trade talks. Benintendi was traded to the Yankees last week. Merrifield, a two-time All-Star, says he may be ready to get a vaccine if it means playing a post-season game in Toronto.

Unless all those uneducated players change their mind, this certainly sounds like a home turf advantage for the Blue Jays. They are 34-21 in Toronto and just 23-24 on the road this season.

Missing regular season games is problematic, but the playoffs are even more important.

The Blue Jays are on track to make it postseason, so theoretically, the road to a World Series title could go through Canada. For a team like the Yankees, this would put them at a major disadvantage.

Benintendi has said he would consider getting vaccinated.

“I’m open-minded about it,” Benintendi said after the trade. “I’m not against it, but as we get closer, time will tell, but for now I’m just focused on getting here, relaxing, getting to know people 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 fantasies are almost endless.

Of course, there’s also a chance that the Blue Jays crash out of the playoff race and no scenario of immediate doom comes into play. Many have replaced Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who said he had not discussed vaccines with Benintendi immediately after the July 27 trade.

“We’ll cross that bridge if and when we have to,” Boone said.


AP Sportswriter Will Graves in Pittsburgh and freelancer Scott Orgera in New York contributed to this story.

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