The AL East was a bloodbath during the 2022 MLB season, with all five teams in the division above 0.500 a day after the trade deadline. The New York Yankees are leading the pack with the best record in the American League, but the Toronto Blue Jays are in second place with a record that would be good enough to lead two divisions in baseball.
The Blue Jays tried charge within trading deadline with multiple acquisitions. Their biggest addition was Whit Merrifield, the 33-year-old second baseman they acquired from the Royals for pitcher Max Castillo and infielder Samad Taylor. Merrifield has a wonderful record: he led baseball in hitting in 2018 and 2019, led the league in steals three times, and has a reputation for being a solid defender. Although he struggled at the plate this year with a 0.240/0.290/0.352 slash line, adding Merrifield is the kind of move Toronto needed to potentially make a deep run into the playoffs.
There’s only one problem. Merrifield is not vaccinated against Covid, and Canada requires everyone entering the country to be vaccinated. So far, Merrifield has not yet indicated that he will be vaccinated so he can play at home. The Blue Jays said the organization will leave the decision to him.
As for Whit Merrifield, John Schneider says, “nothing new”, re vax status. “Obviously we know he wasn’t there in Toronto, but it all depends on him. And I’m sure he talked to his family and other people. So, you know, we’re leaving that decision up to him.”
— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) August 3, 2022
When the Royals played the Blue Jays in Toronto last month, Merrifield was one of 10 players on the team not to travel with the club because he wasn’t vaccinated. Merrifield previously said he would consider getting vaccinated if it meant he could play in the playoffs. The Blue Jays are currently in the postseason position, leading the Wild Card race.
Would the Blue Jays really trade for Merrifield – and give up a good arm in Castillo for that – not knowing if he would be vaccinated? Multiple insiders hinted at the time of the agreement that Merrifield must have changed his mind. It doesn’t sound like that so far.
Merrifield only has to look to Andrew Wiggins for an example of an athlete getting the shot and thriving. Wiggins was initially hesitant to get the shot he needed to play for the Golden State Warriors last season. He eventually succeeded and played a critical role in the Warriors’ run to the 2022 NBA championship.
Whit Merrifield next? The first step is to get the vaccine. He definitely won’t be part of a playoff in Toronto without making it that far.