MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — All right, OK, let’s get to it. Whit Merrifield says he got vaccinated. Three weeks ago, when the Kansas City Royals came to Rogers Centre to play the Toronto Blue Jays, he didn’t make the trip. He went on the restricted list. He forfeited four games’ pay and service time.
“If something happens and I happen to get on a team that has a chance to go play in Canada in the post-season,” Merrifield said at the time, “maybe that changes.”
In Kansas City, those comments didn’t go over well. A lot of fans were hurt. You’d get vaccinated to help another team win but not ours? And a lot of them let Merrifield know about it. Out and about, on social media, from the stands at Kauffman Stadium. And as the trade deadline neared and Merrifield realized he was very likely to be moved, possibly even to Toronto of all places, he decided he didn’t want to hurt another fanbase all over again.
“For a couple of weeks now, I’ve understood that this might be a possibility. And I’ll be in Toronto when the team goes there,” he said Thursday, wearing Blue Jays colours in the visitors’ dugout at Target Field in Minneapolis. “It was something that I probably could have handled a little better. But what happened, happened. And I’m excited to be a Blue Jay. I’m excited to get to Toronto and play at the Rogers Centre as my home.
“I’ll be in Toronto when the team gets to Toronto.”
And of course Merrifield got vaccinated. Why would anyone think he’d do otherwise? It would be legitimately shocking if the Blue Jays traded Max Castillo, a 23-year-old swingman with strong fastball command who’s pitched to a 3.05 ERA since making his big-league debut earlier this season, and Samad Taylor, a toolsy 24-year-old who plays multiple positions and likely would’ve been poached in last off-season’s Rule 5 draft if it happened, for a veteran utility player who can’t enter the country where half the club’s games take place.
The Blue Jays would never execute a transaction under those circumstances, just as they’d never compromise a player’s privacy by disclosing his health information publicly without consent. Merrifield’s vaccination decision was his to make and his to share. And now that it’s been made and shared, everyone can move forward.
Editor’s Note: The COVID-19 situation, in sports and around the world, is constantly evolving. Readers in Canada can consult the country’s public health website for the latest.
“What an exciting team. I’m so excited to be in this clubhouse, get to know some of these guys that I’ve played against from afar,” Merrifield said before chipping in a pair of hits as the Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins Thursday, 9-3. “As soon as I got traded, I called Ryan Goins and Justin Smoak — two of my really good friends. And they both said the same thing: ‘Man, you’re going to love it up there.’ I’ve only been on the opposing side. Had some choice words thrown my way. So, I’m excited to be on the other side.”
Not that it was easy leaving a Royals organization Merrifield spent the first dozen years of his professional career with and calls “my family.” He came a long way there. Merrifield was selected out of college by the Royals with the 269th overall pick in the 2010 draft and signed to a $100,000 bonus. He spent the next six years slowly working his way up the organizational ladder until finally, at the age of 27, he broke through to the big-leagues in 2016.
From there, he led the league in hits twice, in steals three times. He was a two-time all-star, including last season when he put up 42 doubles and 40 steals. Many of the coaches who helped develop him in the minors eventually joined him on Kansas City’s major-league staff. Merrifield’s known for weeks that his time with the Royals was coming to an end. But there’s no preparing yourself for those goodbyes.
“I didn’t expect it to be as tough as it was,” he said. “Saying goodbye to a lot of those guys, a lot of players that I’ve spent the majority of my career with, it was more emotional than I thought it would be. It’s part of the game. It’s part of the business. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
Of course, much of Merrifield’s season has been about getting through things that haven’t been easy, from the regretful vaccination comments he made to the miserable slump he began this year that’s still dragging down his numbers today.
Merrifield remembers looking up at the Camden Yards scoreboard during a series in Baltimore a week into May and thinking, ‘Man, am I really hitting .130?’ Not quite. It was .135 with a .341 OPS through his first 113 plate appearances. He was about to be dropped to No. 8 in the Royals batting order after leading off or hitting second for the club every day for the last half-decade. It was a rough time.
But nothing seemed off in the batter’s box. If anything, Merrifield felt good — like the ball had been jumping off his bat as well as it ever has. He just wasn’t seeing results. Maybe it was the deadened baseballs; maybe the cold weather; maybe just bad luck. Well, certainly bad luck. Off the top of his head, Merrifield can tell you about 10 well-struck, early-season balls that simply didn’t drop in.
Whatever it was, a correction has been occurring ever since. Over 307 plate appearances from May 10 until he was traded, Merrifield hit .280/.332/.423, good for a 112 wRC+. He strung together separate hit streaks of 10, seven, and six games. He hasn’t had quite enough runway to drag his season-long numbers all the way out of the crater they started in. But he’s brought them up pretty far.
And he was a good bet to do so. His barrel rate and average exit velocity on the season are right in line with his norms; his strikeout and walk rates are both a tick better than over his career; his hard-hit rate’s up, too. Despite the early-season slump, you won’t find anything alarming in Merrifield’s peripherals.
What you will find is a suspiciously low .266 BABIP— his career BABIP is .323 and has never gone lower than .295 in a single season — plus sizable gaps between his actual and expected batting average (.240 BA; .253 xBA), slugging percentage (.352 SLG; .377 xSLG), and weighted on-base average (.282 wOBA; .303 xwOBA).
How much stock you put into these metrics that suggest Merrifield’s impacting pitches the same way he always has, just not receiving the results you’d expect based on his quality of contact, is up to you. There’s no disputing the fact his season-long line is that of a below-average MLB hitter. But Merrifield’s 80 wRC+ clearly doesn’t tell the entire story on the surface.
At least, that’s how Zack Greinke feels. When Merrifield was traded, one of the first texts he received was from the veteran Royals right-hander, who didn’t send him any pleasantries, any words of encouragement, or any actual words at all. Greinke merely sent a Tweet comparing Merrifield’s actual numbers to his expected ones, demonstrating how unfortunate he’d been.
“That was it. There was nothing else but the Tweet. And so, I saw him later on that day, and I was like, ‘Zach, I got your Tweet. What’s up?’” Merrifield remembered. “And he goes, ‘Yeah, man, I just want to let you know that you’re a good player. Even though sometimes the numbers might not show it.’”
It’s a good reminder. Even at 33, Merrifield’s still a productive, versatile player, capable of raising a club’s floor at any position around the diamond besides shortstop and catcher.
And while he’s undoubtedly lost a step in the field and on the basepaths from his 2017-2020 prime, losing only a step off elite speed and defensive metrics means you’re still an exceptionally skilled player. Merrifield’s sprint speed this season ranks within MLB’s 83rd percentile, putting him right in line with Teoscar Hernandez and George Springer. The only Blue Jay measured faster is late-game speed specialist Bradley Zimmer.
Merrifield’s ability to sustain above-average athleticism into his mid-30’s is good news for a club positioned to employ him through next season, as the Blue Jays are. At a modest $6.75-million salary for 2023, it isn’t hard to envision Merrifield providing ample surplus value if he keeps making contact the way he has, running as well as he is, and avoiding the injured list which he last visited in 2014.
The $18-million mutual option in his contract for 2024, when Merrifield will be 35, is another story. But with only a $500,000 buyout attached to that option, there’s little risk there for the Blue Jays.
Of course, they’ll worry about that then. For now, the Blue Jays have a multipurpose piece who can help them this year and next, a needed layer of insurance against injury to another regular, and a ballplayer who’s extremely motivated to compete for them — wherever the games are taking place.
“I feel like this is a ballclub that fits into my game. Action, excitement, versatility. Guys out there like to hit, like to swing the bat,” Merrifield said. “When you’re playing against certain teams from the outside, there’s teams that come in that you just feel an energy from. And this is one of those teams. From top to bottom. It’s just exciting baseball. I’m excited. I mean, I’ve said excited a lot. But I’m excited to be a part of this team.”
Schneider: 'Everything is on the table' for struggling Kikuchi – TSN
Toronto Blue Jays interim manager John Schneider said Monday the team is weighing their options when it comes to struggling starter Yusei Kikuchi.
Kikuchi saw his record drop to 4-7 on the season with Monday’s 7-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, in which he allowed six runs – three earned – in 3 1/3 innings of work. The 31-year-old is winless in his past three starts and has a 5.25 ERA through 20 games this season.
“Everything’s on the table right now,” Schneider said, per MLB.com. “We just want him to continue to focus on the things he’s working on. But having options and having other guys that can step into roles is a good thing. And we’ll figure that out in the next couple days.”
Kikuchi spent three weeks on the injured list last month with a neck strain. He delivered a strong outing in his return in July 28 against the Tigers, allowing one run and two hits over five innings, and held the Tampa Bay Rays to two runs in four innings on Aug. 3, but has allowed 11 runs over his past two starts.
“There are a few things that we’ve been working on, trying to figure out what’s good and what’s bad,” Kikuchi said through an interpreter after Monday’s loss. “I feel like we’re just caught in between the ups and downs right now.”
Schneider was non-committal on what changes the team could make to help Kikuchi find his way.
“There’s always a scenario for everything,” Schneider said. “Off-days play into it; performance plays into it. It’s a welcome addition to have (Ross) Stripling back and I love what Mitch White has done as well. You can go a variety of different ways. We’re just going to continue to keep our options open.”
The Blue Jays dropped to 61-53 with Monday’s loss and now sit tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second wild-card spot, a game and a half ahead of the Orioles, who they will play again on Tuesday and Wednesday.
A one-liner for each BMW Championship participant – PGA TOUR
Orioles vs Blue Jays Odds, Picks, & Predictions Today — Zero Value on Blue Birds – Covers
The Orioles have been a thorn in the Blue Jays’ sides all season. As such, even with Alek Manoah on the mound, Toronto at -235 is simply too steep to offer any value. We’re pivoting to focus more on the total in what could be a low-scoring clash.
The Baltimore Orioles moved to 9-4 in the month of August with a 7-3 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.
In Tuesday night’s matchup, Toronto looks for revenge as Alek Manoah battles Dean Kremer on the mound.
This is an important series in a crowded AL playoff race. Toronto is currently tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for the second Wild Card, leaving Baltimore 1.5 games back.
Check out our MLB picks and predictions for the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, August 16.
Orioles vs Blue Jays odds
This odds widget represents the best odds available for each betting market from regulated sportsbooks.
The Blue Jays opened -215, but money has come on them and widened the line, which currently resides between -213 and -235, with most books closer to the latter. As for the total, both 8.5 and 9 are available at the time of this writing.
Orioles vs Blue Jays predictions
Picks made on 8/16/2022 at 8:00 a.m. ET.
Click on each pick to jump to the full analysis.
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Orioles vs Blue Jays game info
• Location: Rogers Centre, Toronto, ON
• Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2022
• First pitch: 7:07 p.m. ET
• TV: MASN, Sportsnet
Orioles vs Blue Jays betting preview
Dean Kremer (4-4, 3.70 ERA): In Kremer’s first extended stay in the show, he compiled an ugly 7.55 ERA across 13 starts in 2021. It’s safe to say things have gone better for the right-hander this go around as indicated by his 3.69 ERA. His 4.87 xERA is a concern and his 6.4% barrel rate is too high to trust considering he pitches to contact.
Alek Manoah (12-5, 2.56 ERA): Toronto found a good one in Manoah. Despite being just 24 years old, he’s been one of the better pitchers in MLB this season. His 2.56 ERA is fantastic, although his 3.44 xERA does indicate that some regression might be incoming. His strikeout rate (22.4%) is down over five percentage points from last season, but he’s countered that by lowering his walk rate by three percentage points to 5.6%.
Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our MLB weather info.
Betting trend to know
Toronto is 9-2 in its last 11 games on astroturf. Find more MLB betting trends for Orioles vs. Blue Jays
Orioles vs Blue Jays picks and predictions
Our side and total predictions are based upon our analysis of the line and total in this game. Our best bet is our favorite pick across all markets.
With these teams so close in the AL East and Wild Card standings, it’s fair to question whether or not this line is too wide. After all, these divisional foes have played seven times this season and Baltimore has won five times — yet the Orioles are a significant +195 underdog at most books.
The pitching discrepancy is the most likely answer. Manoah has been fantastic, compiling a 2.56 ERA, while Kremer’s 4.87 xERA and 6.4% barrel rate don’t instill much confidence.
Still, Manoah has faced the Orioles twice in 2022 and his team is 1-1 during those games. He tossed a beautiful one-hit, seven-strikeout, blanking of the Orioles back on June 13, but allowed three earned on eight hits across only five innings in a no-decision in his most recent outing, which Toronto lost 6-5.
Ultimately, it’s hard to not give Toronto a significant edge in starting pitching. The Blue Jays are 13-9 in Manoah’s starts this season, which includes a 6-2 record at home.
As for the lineups, Toronto ranks fifth in wRC+ this season while Baltimore checks in at 20th. The roles have been almost perfectly reversed in the month of August, however, as Baltimore ranks fifth in wRC+ and Toronto ranks 21st.
The Orioles have been hot, going 25-11 in their last 36 games overall. This seems like a favorable spot for them as they’ve had success against Toronto this season and are 9-2 in their last 11 during Game 2 of a series and 5-0 in their last five Tuesday games.
The Blue Jays have been cold, going 1-5 in their last six overall. The line is not justified in my opinion, so I’ll side with the Orioles against the moneyline as it represents better value.
Prediction: Orioles moneyline (+195 at bet365)
Covers MLB betting analysis
If you played the Under in every game that these two starting pitchers appeared in during the 2022 season, you would’ve made a nice profit. The Orioles are 8-4 to the Under in Kremer’s 12 starts while the Blue Jays are 14-8 to the Under when Manoah is on the bump.
Baltimore has been hot at the plate, ranking fifth in both wOBA and wRC+ since the calendar flipped to June. Manoah has been fantastic this season, and it’s difficult to project the Orioles for an offensive explosion when facing a pitcher who has allowed just a 3.8% barrel rate this season.
Toronto’s lineup has gone through hot and cold stretches this season. It’s a potent lineup that can look very dangerous when things are clicking. The Blue Jays are in the midst of a cold spell, however, ranking 19th in wOBA and 21st in wRC+ in August.
Toronto is 9-2 to the Under in its last 11 games on astroturf and the Under has been a good play at the Rogers Centre during this cold spell, cashing in seven of the Blue Jays’ last nine home games.
Both of these starting pitchers have trended toward the Under this season, and I’ll bet on that to continue Tuesday night.
Prediction: Under 9 (-120 at DraftKings)
I’m rocking with the Under as Tuesday’s Best Bet between the Orioles and Blue Jays.
Baltimore’s bats have been hot, but a matchup against Manoah is nothing to scoff at. The youngster has been terrific this season, posting a 2.56 ERA and 3.8% barrel rate. Toronto is 14-8 to the Under in games that he starts.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s lineup has gone cold, and though Kremer may not be a household name, the Orioles have gone 8-4 to the Under across his 12 starts.
Some books are posting a total of 8.5 but 9 is available in a few spots, so I’m grabbing that number and riding with Under 9 as the best bet.
Pick: Under 9 (-120 at DraftKings)
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