Royals will play without 10 unvaccinated players in Toronto
By Benjamin Hoffman
Andrew Benintendi, an All-Star outfielder and a potential trade target of multiple teams before next month’s deadline, is one of 10 Kansas City Royals players who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 and were to be placed on the restricted list before their team’s four-game series in Toronto that began Thursday.
In addition to Benintendi, the team is without utility players Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier; catchers Cam Gallagher and MJ Meléndez; outfielders Michael A. Taylor and Kyle Isbel; and pitchers Brady Singer, Brad Keller and Dylan Coleman, Royals manager Mike Matheny said.
Before this series, Canada’s vaccination requirements had led to only 25 players across the league being placed on the restricted list. Most recently, the visiting Philadelphia Phillies were forced to leave four players behind. The Royals will dramatically expand that list, with nearly 40% of their 26-man roster having been ruled ineligible. The team will fill out its roster using players from the minor leagues.
Players on the restricted list do not receive service time and are not paid for the games they miss.
Singer, a right-hander who allowed one run in six innings during Wednesday’s 5-2 win over the Detroit Tigers, would not have been scheduled to pitch in Toronto regardless of his vaccination status. But the Royals will sorely miss some of the other players, none more than Benintendi, who raised his batting average to .317 by going 2 for 4 on Wednesday.
While being short-handed for four games is an issue, a more pressing concern for Kansas City, which is 18 games under .500 this season and last in the American League Central, could be how this news affects Benintendi’s trade value. Seen as a target for teams looking for a hitter who puts the ball in play, Benintendi’s ineligibility for games in Toronto could complicate any potential deal.
Benintendi, 28, will be a free agent after this season. A first-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2015 out of the University of Arkansas, he has career highs in batting average and on-base percentage this season, and is hitting .414 (24 for 58) over his past 16 games. But his value is somewhat limited because he does not provide much in terms of power, baserunning or defense.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, have some drama of their own ahead of the series, with the team having announced the firing of manager Charlie Montoyo on Wednesday. Montoyo was popular among players, media and the fans, but Toronto came into the season with World Series aspirations and has underperformed with a 46-42 record that has them 15 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East and in a virtual tie with the Seattle Mariners for the AL’s third and final wild-card spot.