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The rosters of MLB teams with unvaccinated players might look a little different when they travel to Toronto during the 2022 season. Due to Canadian federal policy, players who haven’t received a COVID-19 vaccine will be unable to enter the country and play games against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
The Texas Rangers became the first team to face the restrictions created by the vaccine mandate; their series against the Blue Jays starts today.
With vaccination status varying from team to team, this is how the Canadian federal policies will affect every squad when it travels to Toronto.
What exactly is the policy for unvaccinated players, and what does it mean for teams visiting the Blue Jays?
The Canadian government isn’t allowing unvaccinated travelers to cross borders — except under special circumstances, such as funerals for family members. As a result, any Major League Baseball player not vaccinated won’t be allowed to travel to Canada and won’t be paid for those games (more on that below). If players decide to get vaccinated to play games in Canada, they must receive one dose of Johnson & Johnson or their second Pfizer or Moderna dose at least 14 days before entering the country.
Is the policy expected to remain in place the entire season?
At the moment, there is no momentum toward this policy changing, according to sources. Unlike the exemption created by New York City mayor Eric Adams for unvaccinated entertainers and athletes to perform, there is currently “zero interest” in creating a similar exemption in Canada, Blue Jays sources say. Of course, there are several months between Opening Day and the end of the regular season, and, as New York showed last month, things can change quickly. But as it stands today, don’t expect this policy to change soon.
Who are some key players who didn’t make the trip to Toronto for opening weekend?
The Rangers won’t have any players missing in Toronto during their first series. The team arrived in Canada this week with its roster fully intact.
As the season continues, will we know in advance which players won’t be traveling to Toronto, or will it be a surprise?
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Teams aren’t required to announce in advance, so as long as this policy exists, this will become a hot-button question for players ahead of trips to Toronto. Some players who were unvaccinated last season — like Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts — announced they had since gotten the shot. Others, like New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge, have avoided answering questions directly about their vaccination status. Unless teams do decide to share in advance who won’t be making the trip to Toronto, expect speculation heading into each series.
What will players not traveling to Toronto do while their teams are in Canada?
Not get paid to play baseball. Players who aren’t vaccinated won’t be allowed to enter Canada, so unvaccinated players will not be able to stay in Toronto while their team plays games at Rogers Centre. Players who cannot play games in Toronto will be placed on the restricted list — most frequently used for players dealing with personal issues or legal troubles — and won’t be paid or receive service time.
“It’s a concern,” said MLBPA head Tony Clark about potential loss of pay and service time. “As everyone knows, we appreciate and respect the decisions that are made, particularly when in regard to player health and community health. But that is an issue, as one in the pandemic itself that we’re navigating domestically, that we’re going to have to continue to try to work through here moving forward.”
How will players not traveling to Toronto be replaced on the roster?
According to a league source, teams who need to place players on the restricted list will be able to add a replacement to their active rosters for the series.
Are there any equivalents for other teams/cities in MLB or otherwise?
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The NBA’s Toronto Raptors could provide a preview of any added advantage the Blue Jays might have at home. The Brooklyn Nets‘ Kyrie Irving and other unvaccinated players would be unable to play in Toronto in the playoffs, which are scheduled to start April 16, while teams like the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have declined to say if they are fully vaccinated. The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks have confirmed they have all received a COVID-19 shot.
What teams are headed to Toronto next?
The Jays begin the season this weekend with a three-game, season-opening set against the Rangers. They then hit the road for a four-game series in New York against their AL East rival Yankees.
The Oakland Athletics are next to travel to Toronto for three games, April 15-17.
Source: ESPN MLB