Giancarlo Stanton‘s somewhat surprising decision to reject already agreed upon trades to the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals to play for the New York Yankees has changed the dynamic of the AL East.
But the Boston Red Sox will not just cede the division to their hated rival. Boston has a short-term window to compete, and there is more pressure than ever on them to win in the playoffs.
Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski has never been afraid to spend money, and he is determined to add at least one and probably two big power bats.
In fact, the Red Sox current goal is to sign Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez — an investment that could easily top $300 million dollars — and Boston could certainly increase their payroll and trade or release and eat the money remaining on Hanley Ramirez‘s contract to add both.
From 1998 to 2004, the Yankees and Red Sox finished first and second respectively in the AL East. Boston won the division in 2005, New York won in 2006 and the Red Sox reclaimed the top spot in 2007.
The Tampa Bay Rays may have flipped the script in 2008,
All five AL East teams have had competitive runs in recent seasons, but the Red Sox and Yankees appear poised to control the fate of the division for years to come.
Baltimore won the A.L. East in 2014 and were a wild card team in 2012 and 2016. But a disappointing 2017 campaign and the Yankees offseason activity should trigger a full rebuild
The Orioles are actively shopping Manny Machado. Now, it is time for the Toronto Blue Jays and Rays to get the memo.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto has every intention of making one more run in 2018 — and that is a mistake.
The Blue Jays won 89 games and the AL Wild Card Game in 2016, but they won only 76 games last season.
With Josh Donaldson a year away from free agency, this offseason represents the Blue Jays best chance to get value back for him.
The Jays farm system is filled with talent — led of course by Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette — but general manager Ross Atkins could turn the system into one of the best by trading Donaldson and other veterans.
For example, the St. Louis Cardinals are one of five teams reportedly interested in Donaldson. The Blue Jays may have scored the fifth fewest runs in baseball last season, but Donaldson still put together a highly productive season at the plate with a 149 wRC+.
The Blue Jays are in an interesting position. They have a dedicated fan base and a group of veterans that want to win. But their ownership situation is in a state of flux and the Los Angeles Angels offseason activity will make it hard to make the playoffs next season. In addition, Toronto only has between $25-30 million to spend.
The Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros should win their respective divisions and it could take 90 or more wins to capture the second wild card with the Angels and Red Sox as the favorites.
It is hard to envision a scenario where the Blue Jays would win at least 90 games. It will be tough to sell starting over to the fans, but it is a necessary step to compete in the immediate future.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays made plenty of additions at the Trade Deadline and still could not make the playoffs.
Now it is time for the Rays to rebuild. Tampa Bay won a pennant and the division in 2008, won the division in 2010 and were a Wild Card team in 2011 and 2013. But it appears there window for contention is rapidly closing.
The Rays have not made significant progress towards a new ballpark and the payroll is set to decrease. With $36.25 million committed to four players and an expensive arbitration period ahead, Tampa has a big decision to make.
The Rays are a small market team and cannot sustain success with big contracts.
Archer and Longoria have both generated a lot of interest. The Rays have one of the best farm systems in baseball. It includes Brett Honeywell, Willy Adames and first baseman and right-hander Brendan McKay. But the Rays could build one of the top two or three systems in baseball by unloading players mentioned above.
The Rays say they will try and compete because of the players they have under team control.
But the Rays have little to no chance to make the playoffs next season and have not had a winning record since 2013.
Tampa Bay tried to go for it last season and failed. Now it is time to start over.