Every time the Blue Jays play a home series against a new rival team we learn more about the challenge that the front office faced this past offseason.
What do I mean by that? Well look at the Kansas City Royals as the latest example. ESPN’s Jeff Passan revealed on Wednesday that 10, count ’em 10(!) Royals would be put on the restricted list and unable to make the trip across the border to Canada. We don’t know for certain in every case, but it’s widely suspected that each player is not vaccinated against Covid-19, which is why they are unable to make the trip.
Among those Kansas City players is Andrew Benintendi, who many writers have linked to the Blue Jays as a potential upgrade they could pursue ahead of the trade deadline on August 2nd. Now that we know that Benintendi isn’t vaccinated (or we can at least assume as much), we know that the Blue Jays are all but certain to pass on the veteran outfielder in the trade market.
We saw the same with an All-Star catcher by the name of J.T. Realmuto, who didn’t join the Phillies for their trip to Toronto for the two-game series at the Rogers Centre. Back when Realmuto was a free agent there were many writers and fans calling for the Blue Jays to try to sign him, and at the time it made some sense. Now we know why that was never a realistic option.
The same happened with last year’s American League Cy Young award winner in Robbie Ray, who stayed behind when the Mariners visited the Blue Jays in Toronto as well. Obviously the Blue Jays would have had some interest in retaining Ray heading into the 2022 season, and there were a lot of fans that were upset with Ross Atkins and company when they signed Kevin Gausman instead. With the benefit of hindsight, Atkins did very well to replace Ray with Gausman, when the former really wasn’t an option for MLB’s only Canadian team.
Having said all of this, I’m not here to make excuses for this front office. Charlie Montoyo lost his job on Wednesday, and while he’s partly responsible for the mess the Blue Jays find themselves in these days I think the front office has to take their fair share of the blame as well. It’s now clear that the Blue Jays didn’t bolster their pitching staff as much as was necessary, both in the rotation and in the bullpen, and they likely needed that long-coveted left-handed bat as well.
But it’s becoming more and more clear just how much was up against the front office as they looked for those finishing pieces last winter. Not only did they have to navigate the timing of the lockout, but it turns out their choices could have been more limited than many of us realized.
I can’t help but scoff every time I read a comment on social media like “why are they even allowed to play in Canada?” when there are variables like this at play. Sure, they’ll will have an advantage over the Royals this week as they have to leave 10 players at home, but how much different would the Blue Jays roster look if they could have competed for all free agents? The advantage isn’t as drastic as many would have you believe.