For the past few years, the American League and National League have stood at the poles of league parity. The NL has been run by a few powerhouse teams that win seemingly every year, padding their win totals by beating up on a handful of rebuilding teams that aren't trying to hide the fact they're playing the long game. Meanwhile, in the AL, everyone decided to try to race to 85 wins, with very few teams punting their chance to hang around in the wild-card race. This led to surprises like the upstart Minnesota Twins finding themselves in the postseason.
But while there are still plenty of free agents left to sign, the early signs this winter suggest the AL is moving toward the NL model. The Yankees landed former Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton because they could. The Angels won the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, then went and got second baseman Ian Kinsler and third baseman Zack Cozart to fill out their infield. The Red Sox are trying to sign outfielder J.D. Martinez. And all of a sudden, the AL looks like it's about to be dominated by superteams the same way the NL has been of late.
Right now, the projected standings at FanGraphs have the Astros at 97 wins, the Indians at 92, the Red Sox at 91, the Yankees at 89 and the Angels at 87. The Red Sox are likely to go up when they sign Martinez or whatever other big bat they get in his place. The Yankees aren't done filling out their rotation, and someone like Pat Corbin or Gerrit Cole would push them over 90 projected wins. And the Angels' projection will go up once Ohtani gets an official forecast, likely pushing Anaheim over 90 wins as well.
From there, it's a big drop down to the Rays at 84 projected wins, and they see the writing on the wall, reportedly looking at trading away core pieces like closer Alex Colome, starter Jake Odorizzi and maybe starter Chris Archer or third baseman Evan Longoria. With five powerhouses in the AL, it's no longer a great idea to hang around and hope things break your way, as there are just too many big-market, big-money contenders who won't settle for anything less than a playoff berth in 2018.
As a result, it's probably time for a few AL teams to join their NL brethren in admitting that baseball is becoming a win-or-play-for-later game, and a few of these teams hanging around the middle should start playing for the future. Let's take a look at the clubs that should be most highly motivated to pivot away from trying to win in 2018.