Red Sox Rumors: MLB considering realignment for 2020 season

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visits "Mornings With Maria" hosted by Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business Network Studios on September 30, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visits "Mornings With Maria" hosted by Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business Network Studios on September 30, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images) /

MLB is considering a temporary realignment for the 2020 season that would give the Boston Red Sox some new division rivals.

If the Boston Red Sox are able to return to playing baseball this year, it might not be the AL East division crown they will be competing for.

According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Major League Baseball is discussing a radical plan that would eliminate the traditional American League and National League while realigning the six divisions for an abbreviated 2020 season.

The plan would have three divisions competing against each other in Florida while the other three would reside in Arizona. The leagues would be split based on where each team’s spring training facility resides and the divisions would be aligned based on geography.

Teams would be secluded to the one state where their division resides and games would be played in empty stadiums, reducing travel and minimizing the risks of exposure while the world remains in a state of quarantine amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Say good-bye to the AL and NL. For this season only, it could be the Grapefruit League and the Cactus League. The Red Sox would be in the South division of the Grapefruit League and they would be based out of their spring training facility in Fort Myers.

Here’s what the division structure of the Grapefruit League would look like under this proposed plan.

NORTH: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates.
SOUTH: Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles.
EAST: Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins.

The most notable change is that the Red Sox and Yankees aren’t in the same division. Yes, this plan would break up the best rivalry in sports. The clubs would still see action against each other at some point in the revised schedule but not as frequently and they won’t be competing for the same division title.

Removing the juggernaut Yankees from their division doesn’t make Boston’s path to the postseason any easier. The Red Sox would still need to deal with the Rays while adding a pair of division winners from last season to the mix. The Twins won 101 games last year and have come back looking even stronger. Atlanta owned the NL’s second-best record last year. Swapping them in for the Yankees and Blue Jays makes Boston’s division tougher than the AL East was expected to be.

The Braves would be an interesting division rival from a historical standpoint considering their franchise originated in Boston. They were known as the Boston Braves until 1953 when the team moved to Milwaukee, only to relocate again in 1966 when they settled in Atlanta.

There are plenty of obstacles that this plan would need to overcome so this rumor should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not any more far-fetched than the idea of secluding every team in Arizona though, a plan that has also been under consideration.

Separating to leagues into two states instead of one presents a new set of challenges, especially for the Grapefruit League. While Arizona has plenty of suitable ballparks in close proximity, the facilities in Florida are more spread out. They will be close enough to avoid air travel but there could be some long bus rides when the Red Sox visit opponents outside of their division. Teams make it work during spring training but that’s only for about six weeks, not the regular season, plus they have the benefit of split squads with their much larger rosters during camp.

More from Red Sox Rumors

There are some advantages that this plan has over the Arizona-only idea. The players would presumably prefer the comforts of their own spring training facility rather than shuffling around to various venues in Arizona. Their living arrangements during the season wouldn’t be much different than what they go through every spring, whereas the Arizona plan would have everyone sequestered in hotels.

There would also be a financial benefit to the league by enabling more games to be televised at different times with the leagues split into two different time zones. An increase in nationally televised games spread out throughout the day could help make up for some of the revenue lost by not being able to sell tickets to the games.

USA Today’s report also indicates that the designated hitter would be universally implemented, which could give the Red Sox an edge. Several National League teams would be joining the Grapefruit League, including the Braves in Boston’s own division. Those rosters weren’t built with the DH in mind so that could put them at a disadvantage against a Red Sox team that primarily uses J.D. Martinez in that role.

If Boston were to make it to the World Series, they wouldn’t have to worry about losing Martinez’s bat in the lineup or weakening their defense by putting him on the field.

Next. Top 10 Red Sox players from 1970s. dark

MLB still has more details to iron out and this plan is far from approved but the league office is intent on having a 2020 season and they are scrambling to find a feasible solution that would allow that to safely happen. Maybe this plan won’t be how the problem is solved but it’s clear that MLB isn’t giving up searching for a solution.