It’s a difficult thing for a front office to make significant improvements to a roster, and the Blue Jays have an extra variable working against them this offseason.
Oddly enough it wasn’t something I had really even considered, but the Blue Jays legitimately need to think about the vaccination status of any player they might bring into the organization, and might need to think the same way about some of their in-house options in the minor league system as well.
To be fair, I’m not at all trying to villainize any unvaccinated players around baseball. That’s not my place, and that’s really not the type of discussion that I want to lead here at the moment. However, the Blue Jays very much need to be mindful of this newer variable to the offseason as the only team that plays their home games outside of the United States. With an international border between the Rogers Centre and the rest of the league, it’s a legitimate consideration.
I’m not going to start speculating about the vaccination status of players, other than one example that I noticed on social media yesterday. I saw a handful of Blue Jays fans pointing out that Kendall Graveman, who reportedly signed a three-year deal with the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, had been on the Covid IL last season after testing positive for the virus. It’s entirely possible that his vaccination status has changed since then, but at the time his wife Victoria Long took to Instagram and stated that they had not received the shot, and as a result the former Seattle Mariner had to isolate in a hotel room and spend some time on the IL.
I think about Graveman because he struck me as the type of reliever that would have made a lot of sense in Toronto. He has served as a closer and a set-up man, and at a cost of less than 10 million per season I saw him as a nice compliment to pair with Jordan Romano at the back end of the arm barn. Maybe a return to Toronto was never really on the table (he was part of the trade that saw the Jays acquire Josh Donaldson in 2015), but if he hasn’t been vaccinated then the Blue Jays didn’t have much choice about taking him off of their potential free agent list.
Players had been able to enter the country whether they were vaccinated or not, but they were subject to different rules in order to enter Canada. Last season that meant additional testing, and a modified quarantine, among other things. However, the Government of Canada recently announced that they will no longer make exceptions for unvaccinated pro athletes, and they won’t be allowed to enter the country as of Jan 15, 2022.
It may not be a factor in many decisions, but there could be the odd player here and there that is eliminated as a real possibility for the Blue Jays. With a shifting reality in the world and nearly impossible to predict circumstances, I can’t imagine that the Jays will sign up for the hassle that comes with that situation, at least not this winter. Hopefully that variable won’t factor into many discussions or decisions, but unfortunately it’s still something that Ross Atkins and Mark Shapiro will need to consider, especially with the recent change in Canada.