KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Royals sent utility man Whit Merrifield to the Blue Jays just minutes before Tuesday’s trade deadline, even though the two-time All-Star was unvaccinated and had to miss Kansas City’s trip to Toronto last month.
It’s unclear whether Merrifield, who has primarily played second base but is capable of playing anywhere in the outfield and across the infield, has received or is planning to get the shot required of all players traveling to Canada.
Merrifield drew the ire of Royals fans when, prior to their trip to Toronto, he said: “Something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the postseason, maybe that changes.” Many in Kansas City took that to mean he wouldn’t get vaccinated for his last-place team but would be open to it for a contender.
Roughly three weeks later, Merrifield has been placed in precisely that situation.
In exchange, the Royals received speedy outfielder Samad Taylor and right-hander Max Castillo, both of whom could help their big league team as soon as this season. The 24-year-old Taylor is hitting .258 with nine homers and 23 stolen bases in 70 games for Triple-A Buffalo while the 23-year-old Castillo has a 3.05 ERA in nine appearances for Toronto.
The 33-year-old Merrifield was hitting .240 with 30 extra-base hits and 15 stolen bases in 95 games this season. But he’s proven to be dependable, playing every game for Kansas City each of the past three seasons, and he’s twice led the league in hits, led the league in stolen bases three times and had an AL-leading 42 doubles last season.
Merrifield is making $7 million this season and is due $2.75 million next season along with a $4 million bonus for spending fewer than 110 days on the injured list in 2022. He has an $18 million mutual option for 2024 with a $500,000 buyout.
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