The Kansas City Royals are headed to Toronto to face the Blue Jays this weekend, though calling the team they'll be fielding the Royals may be a bit charitable.
A whopping 10 players on the Royals' roster are not vaccinated against COVID-19 and will not be able to enter Canada for the Blue Jays series, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. Those players reportedly are:
OF Andrew Benintendi
IF/OF Whit Merrifield
C M.J. Melendez
DH Hunter Dozier
SP Brad Keller
SP Brady Singer
CF Michael A. Taylor
OF Kyle Isbel
RP Dylan Coleman
C Cam Gallagher
As Passan notes, a total of 25 MLB players had not been allowed into Canada because they are unvaccinated before this series. It should be mentioned that the U.S. has a policy similar to Canada, hence all non-U.S. citizens on the Blue Jays must be vaccinated to play any road series.
That Royals group represents several of the team's top players, including Benintendi, a top trade candidate for the rebuilding franchise.
Who are the Royals losing against the Blue Jays?
To understand what the team is losing, take a look at its starting lineup from July 10, the last game Merrifield started before he began dealing with a toe injury:
Whit Merrifield, 2B Andrew Benintendi, LF
Bobby Witt Jr., SS
MJ Melendez, DH Hunter Dozier, RF
Vinnie Pasquantino, 1B
Kyle Isbel, CF Cam Gallagher, C
Nicky Lopez, 3B
Between Taylor, Isbel and Merrifield, the Royals are losing every player who has started more than two games for them at center field this season. Between Melendez and Gallagher, they are losing both of the catchers left on their active roster, a position where they were already missing Salvador Perez, currently on the 10-day injured list after undergoing thumb surgery.
On the pitching side, the Royals are losing their top two starters by ERA who have made multiple starts with Keller and Singer. They are also losing Coleman, who is tied for the team lead in appearances with 37 and holds a 3.22 ERA.
They at least still have Witt, one of the most exciting rookies in baseball this year, but don't flip on the game expecting to see anything more than him and the best of their Triple-A roster.
Royals discuss lack of vaccination
After confirming the 10 players who wouldn't be visiting Toronto, Royals manager Mike Matheny told reporters the team had brought in experts to consult with players on getting vaccinated.
From The Athletic:
“It’s an individual choice,” Matheny said. “The organization has done a real good job of bringing in professionals and experts to talk guys through tough conversations, then put it in their hands to make their decision that they believe is best for them and their family.”
Merrifield insisted he did research before making the decision, and mentioned he had a friend die of COVID-19 last fall:
“It wasn’t something that was like, ‘Hey, I read Twitter and formed an opinion’ type of thing,” said Merrifield, who is the Royals’ Players Association representative. “I talked to a lot of people who have had experiences both ways. This wasn’t something that I took lightly. I had a really dear friend of mine die of COVID-19. A college friend. He passed away last fall. It’s something that I’ve taken seriously.”
Dozier, meanwhile, cited his physical fitness to explain why he didn't need the vaccine:
“I live a healthy lifestyle,” he said. “I work out. I want my body to naturally fight stuff off.”
The Royals-Blue Jays series will be each team's last before the All-Star break. Benintendi is currently the team's sole representative for the 2022 ML All-Star Game.