The Royals send Whit Merrifield to the Blue Jays for 2 players

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Whit Merrifield said last month he might be willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if it meant playing for a competitive team, despite refusing to get the shot , while playing for the last-place Kansas City Royals.

He has to make that decision now.

In a unique and possibly unprecedented situation, the Royals traded Merrifield for the Toronto Blue Jays just minutes before Tuesday’s close. And if the two-time All-Star later wants to play in Canada, Merrifield will need to get one of the approved vaccines to enter the country.

“We’re letting him work this through with his family,” said Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins, but declined to comment further on the matter. “Today we had the feeling that we made a very good team better.”

Merrifield was among 10 Royals players who were unvaccinated last month, preventing them from traveling to Toronto. When asked about his decision, Merrifield drew the wrath of Kansas City fans by saying, “Something’s happening and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to play in Canada in the postseason, maybe changes that.”

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Many took this to mean that Merrifield wasn’t willing to get vaccinated for his current team, but he was for someone else.

“The extent of our conversation with Whit and his vaccination status ended when we went to Toronto because it didn’t affect us after that,” Royals general manager JJ Picollo said. “I will keep the talks we had with Toronto to myself. I don’t have to talk about a player on another team.”

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The Royals got fast youngster Samad Taylor and right-hander Max Castillo in the deal, both of whom could help their premier league side as early as this season. 24-year-old Taylor hits .258 with nine homers and 23 stolen bases in 70 games for Triple-A Buffalo, while 23-year-old Castillo has a 3.05 ERA in nine appearances for Toronto.

The deal also creates more opportunities for the young core of the royals to play together.

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The 33-year-old Merrifield hit just .240 with 30 extra base hits and 15 stolen bases in 95 games this season. But he has proven reliable, playing every game for Kansas City for the past three seasons. He led the league in hits twice, led the league in stolen bases three times, and had 42 doubles topping the AL last season.

Merrifield is making $7 million this season and $2.75 million next season, plus a $4 million bonus for spending fewer than 110 days on the injured list in 2022. He has a mutual option of $18 million for 2024 with a $500,000 buyout.

“I like Whit. I like him as a player. I like him as a person,” Royals manager Mike Matheny said ahead of their game against the White Sox in Chicago. “But I also realize that it’s not a shock. This conversation started a long time ago.”

Toronto, which started Tuesday by a three-game lead over Tampa Bay for the AL’s top wild card, missed outfielder George Springer for the third time in their last four games against the Rays with a right elbow injury.

Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said Springer will be reevaluated on Wednesday.

“He’s going to do some stuff on the field today and then kind of go through it again,” Schneider said, “but it’s nothing concrete at the moment. They definitely want him to be able to be good, thrive and help us, so let’s hope all goes well. We hope there is nothing crazy that will hinder him and his performance and us.

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It was a busy day for the Blue Jays, who brought in helpers Anthony Bass and Zach Pop along with a later-named player from Miami for shortstop prospect Jordan Groshans; Dodgers right-hander Mitch White and infielder Alex DeJesus for right-handers Nick Frasso and left-handers Moises Brito; sent right-hander Jeremy Beasley to Pittsburgh for cash; remembered left-hander Matt Gage from Buffalo; and designated left-hander Anthony Banda for the assignment.

Bass is 2-3 with a 1.41 ERA in 45 games for Miami, while Pop is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 18 games.

“Two guys throwing hard,” Schneider said. “Anything that can complement what we have is great.”

The Royals have been less busy than many expected before the deadline, though they struck a late deal with the Padres by sending backup catcher Cam Gallagher to San Diego for minor league outfielder Brent Rooker.

Gallagher only played 18 games for Kansas City this season, handing the job behind Salvador Perez to up-and-coming MJ Melendez. The 27-year-old rooker hit .272 with 19 homers in 61 games for Triple-A El Paso this season.

“I was shocked. It’s a deal. I love the royals. I’ll remember all the memories and cheer for them,” said Gallagher, who spent parts of six seasons in Kansas City. “But at the end of the day, it’s one new opportunity for me.”

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AP sports writer Andrew Seligman of Chicago and AP freelance writer Mark Didtler of Tampa, Fla. contributed.


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© 2022 The Canadian Press The Royals send Whit Merrifield to the Blue Jays for 2 players


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