The Royals are traveling to Toronto tomorrow to begin a series against the Blue Jays but will be without a significant portion of their regular roster. The team announced to reporters, including Alec Lewis of The Athletic, that ten players will be placed on the restricted list. Since unvaccinated travelers are not allowed to cross the Canada-US border, it’s become common for teams to place a handful of players on the restricted list before playing in Toronto. However, the quantity and quality of the Royals players included is noteworthy. The full list of names: Andrew Benintendi, White Merrifield, Hunter Dozier, Cam Gallagher, MJ Melendez, Brady Singer, Brad Keller, Kyle Isbel, Michael A. Taylor and Dylan Coleman.
Benintendi is one of the top trade chips this year, as he’s an impending free agent having a good season for a noncompetitive team. He landed the #2 slot on MLBTR’s recent list of top trade candidates, trailing only Willson Contreras. Benintendi is walking in 10.2% of his plate appearances while striking out just 14% of the time and hitting .317.386/401 on the year. That amounts to a wRC+ of 127, or 27% above league average. With the Royals currently 35-53, a record worse than all American League teams except for the A’s, they stand out as obvious deadline sellers.
Two weeks ago, it was reported that the Blue Jays were among the teams interested in acquiring Benintendi, which was a fairly logical match. Benintendi bats from the left side, whereas the Blue Jays have a right-handed heavy lineup. They acquired outfielder Raimel Tapia from the Rockies in an offseason trade as a way to try to balance things out. Unfortunately, he’s hit just .263/.289/.375 for an 84 wRC+ this year. Swapping Benintendi into Tapia’s role as part of an outfield/DH mix with George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. would have been a straightforward upgrade. However, this news would seem to more or less eliminate the chances of such a deal coming together since Benintendi would only be available to the Blue Jays for road games.
In the short term, the Royals will have to find replacements for these players in order get through the upcoming four-game series against the Blue Jays, which starts tomorrow. The corresponding moves are not known at this time.