Third baseman, Manny Machado, rumoured to be on the Orioles' trade block
A polarizing AL East bodes well for the Toronto Blue Jays, who could turn success against weak divisional rivals into a postseason berth.
Though the Baltimore Orioles have threatened to take Manny Machado off the trade market if offers don’t get better, Wednesday’s news that Zach Britton ruptured his Achilles drastically hurt the Orioles playoff chances and likely pushes Baltmore toward trading its star third baseman. For the Tampa Bay Rays, trading Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants marked a turning point for the franchise, who could be amongst the league’s bottom dwellers next year. A pair of rebuilding teams in the division gives the Blue Jays a chance to boost their record by beating up on weak competition over 38 regular season games.
For a point of comparison, the NL West had a similar dynamic last season. While the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants finished in the bottom third of the league, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies all made the postseason. The top three teams averaged a 12-7 record against their struggling foes, advancing into the playoffs despite a tight NL Wildcard race. In the AL Central, the Minnesota Twins also rode a polarizing division into a surprise playoff spot last year, beating the lowly Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers a combined 23 times.
In 2017, the Blue Jays went 10-9 and 7-12 against the Rays and Orioles respectively, finishing two games below .500 against the two teams. A seven-win swing by beating up on weak divisional competition isn’t inconceivable for Toronto. Even if the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees continue to make splashy additions this offseason, a few savvy moves by the Blue Jays’ front office, coupled with the Orioles and Rays both tanking, could be the difference between selling off Josh Donaldson at the trade deadline and playing postseason baseball in October.