Toronto Advantage: MLB Players Not Playing Due to COVID Vaccine Requirement

Blue Jays Have Benefited In a Big Way

Based on their record so far this season, it might not feel like it but the Toronto Blue Jays have a major ace up their sleeve for the stretch run. But, thanks to the Canadian government’s requirement that international visitors to the country must be vaccinated to enter. All unvaccinated players on teams that travel to Toronto for games must be placed on the restricted list and aren’t able to play. Since there have been many MLB players not playing due to COVID restrictions in Canada, the Blue Jays have a huge advantage against certain opponents.

Of course, everyone that plays for the Blue Jays  – and thus has to go over the Canadian border for road games and back into Canada for home games – is vaccinated, so Toronto could be disadvantaged in the sense that all players they might pick up during the season need to have received the shots. Those MLB COVID restrictions limit the Blue Jays’ potential pool of players but they also ensure that Toronto never has to play against unvaccinated players at home.

Since the vast majority of MLB’s players are vaccinated, which includes the entire rosters of the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, for example… most series aren’t affected by Canada’s rules, and sometimes, the Blue Jays are fortunate enough to play severely undermanned teams. That has been the case when the Boston Red Sox visited Toronto without their closer (Tanner Houck) and a few other relievers, who are still unvaccinated. Unsurprisingly, Boston is 2-5 in those games and has blown some late leads.

Overall, the Blue Jays have been underwhelming this season. At the All-Star break, they’re just 50-43 and are clinging to a Wild Card spot after many people thought they had a chance to win the AL East. Toronto fired manager Charlie Montoyo a few weeks ago amid the Blue Jays’ struggles and it’s clear that the pressure level has been turned up a bit. The good news for Toronto is that playing at home against teams with MLB players not vaccinated, has been a saving grace of sorts.

The Blue Jays are 30-19 at home compared to a mediocre 20-24 on the road. Of course, MLB players not playing due to COVID rules in Canada doesn’t fully account for how much better Toronto has been at home but it certainly helps.

Toronto won five of six at home right before the break, sweeping the Philadelphia Phillies in a two-game series and taking three of four from the Kansas City Royals. Philadelphia was without its starting catcher (J.T. Realmuto), starting third baseman (Alec Bohm), and two of its three top starting pitchers (Aaron Nola and Kyle Gibson). Those absences showed as the Blue Jays outscored Philadelphia 12-5 in those two games to snap a four-game losing streak, and 1-9 stretch overall.

Things got even better for Toronto when the Royals came into town. Kansas City has been bad enough this season as is but, without 10 regulars (and with a bunch of last-minute replacements from AAA and AA), the Royals were even worse. The Blue Jays got three much-needed wins against the Royals to head into the break on a high note. It is undeniable that MLB players not playing due to COVID restrictions has been a huge boon for a Toronto team that just hasn’t been able to get on track.

With 32 home games left at home this season, including a bunch against the Red Sox and the partially unvaccinated Tampa Bay Rays; there is more than enough time for Toronto to continue to take advantage of the so-called Canada Effect. We also don’t even know if teams like the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals, (for example), will be without key players for their Toronto series because they haven’t had to cross the border yet this season. That’s worth keeping an eye on as the season goes along because Toronto should be a really good bet, particularly at home.

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