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Blue Jays' final series key to Draft positioning

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays' final series of the year against the Rays will have implications for Tampa Bay in the American League Wild Card race, but it will also dictate where Toronto picks in next year's First-Year Player Draft.

Toronto entered play on Friday night in a tie for the seventh-worst record (72-87) in the Majors. The Blue Jays are even with Colorado, Philadelphia and Milwaukee.

That's important because the teams with the 10 worst records in baseball will have their first-round picks protected in next year's Draft. The protected pick allows teams to sign free agents that receive qualifying offers without having to surrender next year's selection as compensation.

Toronto could still finish outside of the bottom 10, with the Mets (73-86) and Giants (74-85) having the chance to move below the Blue Jays in the standings. But Toronto does own the tiebreaker with both teams because it finished with a worse record last season.

Despite the stakes, the Blue Jays certainly aren't expected to give away any games against the Rays. Tampa Bay entered play on Friday night with a magic number of two to clinch an American League Wild Card berth, with a one-game lead over the Indians for home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card Game and two games ahead of the Rangers.

The Rangers need the Blue Jays to beat the Rays and the Twins to beat the Indians. Texas manager Ron Washington was asked if he felt the Twins and the Blue Jays will do everything they can to win.

"I can tell you with Ron Gardenhire as manager of the Minnesota Twins, that answers that question," Washington said. "With John Gibbons as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, that answers that question. They are pros. That's just professionalism. That's all that is. You can't describe it any way else. No matter who you play or where you play, you want to win."

That's a sentiment Gibbons echoed before the start of Friday night's game against the Rays.

"We want to finish good, we still have a say in what happens to Tampa over there, so we'd like to play a good series," Gibbons said. "That would bring some satisfaction to us. We've been playing pretty good baseball, we haven't been scoring a lot, it's a different offense, but guys are competing pretty good. Big hit here or there would make a difference."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB.
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