Blue Jays won’t require Whit Merrifield to be vaccinated after trade with KC Royals

Peter Power/AP
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When the Royals traded second baseman/outfielder Whit Merrifield on Tuesday to the Toronto Blue Jays, it raised eyebrows around baseball.

Many wondered if this move would force Merrifield to get the Covid-19 vaccine.

Merrifield was among 10 Royals players who couldn’t join the team last month for a four-game series against the Blue Jays in Toronto because they had not received the vaccine.

At the time, Merrifield said he would consider being vaccinated if it meant he could play in the postseason. After fans took that to mean Merrifield wanted to leave the Royals, he sought to clarify that he loved Kansas City.

But the Royals traded Merrifield to Toronto, which is leading the American League Wild Card standings, meaning he would have to receive the vaccine to be allowed to travel to Canada.

Blue Jays manager John Schneider told reporters Wednesday that the team won’t force Merrifield to be vaccinated.

“Obviously we know he wasn’t there in Toronto, but totally up to him,” Schneider told SportsNet’s Shi Davidi. “And I’m sure that he’s had conversations with his family and other people. So, you know, we’re leaving that decision up to him.”

Toronto is in St. Petersburg, Florida on Wednesday for the finale of a two-game series with the Rays. The Blue Jays don’t return home until Aug. 12, meaning Merrifield will be able to join the Blue Jays and have time to decide if he’ll get the vaccine.

The Blue Jays travel next to Minnesota to face the Twins in a four-game series. Merrifield is expected to join the team there on Thursday, Davidi reported.

Toronto general manager Ross Atkins indicated in an interview on Sportsnet that Merrifield would be able to play home games with the Blue Jays. However, Atkins stopped short of saying those exact words.

“We acquired Whit to play for the Toronto Blue Jays and he’s excited to do that,” Atkins said. “And there is a clock that will start and that timing, I will let him address the timing of that and what that means. I think you could map out a calendar and most people could determine what those potential scenarios could be for him.”

Atkins added: “He is exceptionally excited to be a part of this, and he knows what it means to play in Toronto.”