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COVID-19 vaccinations add new twist to MLB trade deadline


Pirates GM Ben Cherington: “It’s definitely one of the novelties you didn’t have to think about.”

Kansas City Royals’ Andrew Benintendi leaves the batter’s box on an RBI single in the third inning. Colin E. Braley/AP Photo

PHOENIX (AP) — It’s always a stressful time of year for Major League Baseball’s 30 general managers, who assess talent, juggle financial implications and try to figure out ways to improve their teams at home. Tuesday’s trading deadline is approaching.

Now there is another factor in the calculation of the wheel and the transaction – the COVID-19 vaccination status.

“It’s definitely one of the new things you didn’t have to think about,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said. “I think every team obviously wants to feel that their entire roster is available to play, but we’re in a new world and there are personal choices.”

These personal choices are important because MLB’s COVID-19 rules affect the 30 teams differently.

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Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Mike Hazen said players’ vaccination status affects trade negotiations “to some degree” but doesn’t think it will be a deciding factor in many deals, especially for teams that do not have to travel to Canada in the near future. coming.

Hazen added that vaccination status is part of a player’s medical record, so there should be no secrets as teams are free to discuss such details.

As the only MLB team located in Canada, the Toronto Blue Jays have by far the toughest constraints. Foreign nationals who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 are not allowed to enter Canada, except for limited exceptions which require a 14-day quarantine.

Unvaccinated players are placed on the shortlist, where they do not get paid and do not accrue major league service time.

That means any upgrades for the Blue Jays — who are right in the middle of the American League playoff race — will almost certainly need to be vaccinated. It also means teams traveling to Toronto for the remainder of the regular season need to consider whether they’re ready to add a player who may miss a crucial series.

The Yankees, Guardians, Rays, Orioles, Red Sox, Angels and Cubs are all playing games in Toronto past the Aug. 2 deadline. Toronto general manager Ross Atkins declined an interview request through a team spokesperson.

Several teams have left for 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 those players — including hitters Andrew Benintendi and Whit Merrifield — were reportedly the subject of trade talks. Benintendi was traded to the Yankees last week. Merrifield, a two-time All-Star, says he might be open to getting the shot if it means playing postseason games in Toronto.

Unless all those unvaccinated players change their minds, that looks like an on-court 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 qualify for the playoffs, so theoretically the road to a World Series title could go through Canada. For a team like the Yankees, that would put them at a disadvantage.

Benintendi said he would consider getting vaccinated.

“I’m open-minded about it,” Benintendi said after the trade. “I’m not against it, but time will tell as we get closer, but right now my focus is just on getting here, feeling comfortable, learning how to get to know the guys and win baseball games.”

It is also possible that Canada’s COVID-19 restrictions will continue for years to come, which could affect long-term agreements. The hypotheses are almost endless.

Of course, there’s also a chance the Blue Jays pull out of playoff contention and none of the immediate doomsday scenarios come into play. Many have taken the position of Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who said that he had not discussed vaccines with Benintendi immediately after the July 27 exchange.

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


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