Finally, baseball is back after a three-month lockout, and fans cannot wait to witness 400-foot dingers while eating their favorite ballpark snack.
With the start of the 2022 MLB season just 11 days away, teams’ rosters are set and are ready to compete. Fans are happy that baseball is back in general, but other competition-hungry fans are licking their chops at the American League East, MLB’s toughest division. The history of the AL East will tell you that winning the division title will not be easy. Winning 95 games is often not enough to win the division crown.
This season, four AL East teams have at least a fair shot at winning the division: Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox (sorry Orioles fans). None of these teams have odds smaller than +185 on DraftKings, making this division a complete toss-up. Toronto, who is looking for its first division title since 2015, leads the way at +185. Ever-prevalent New York comes in with the second-best odds (+195), followed by defending division champs Tampa Bay (+300). Boston takes the fourth spot at +550, and Baltimore sits at +15000 (again, sorry, Orioles fans).
It would not surprise any if either Toronto, New York, or Tampa Bay wins the AL East. Toronto is this year’s favorite. New York has finished 1st or 2nd in the division for five years straight. Tampa Bay has won the past two division titles.
Then there’s Boston, who finished 2nd in the division with 92 wins and beat the Yankees and Rays in the Wild Card and ALDS, respectively, last season.
The Red Sox have a decent chance to make the playoffs (-120, DraftKings), especially with an extra wild card spot this postseason. But are they worth +550 odds to take the top spot in the AL East? Let’s break down all of the factors.
Sorry sports fans in Massachusetts, but you’re probably not going to be able to take advantage of these Red Sox future odds this season.
By next year, though, Massachusetts sports fans should be able to place bets with mobile apps like DraftKings Sportsbook or Caesars Sportsbook Massachusetts.
No matter how well Boston performs this season, there are still factors that aren’t in their control. Let me remind you that they are in the toughest division in the league, a league that holds three other teams capable of hitting 95+ wins, and they all might have gotten better since last season.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto added three-time Gold Glove winner Matt Chapman in a trade from Oakland. Chapman is a lethal bat that will elevate one of the league’s best, young lineups already containing Vladimir Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette. Toronto also added Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi to now arguably the best rotation in the division.
The Blue Jays just won 92 games last season, and that number will likely bump up this season.
New York Yankees
New York did not do much in the offseason to address its base-running, depth, and athletic deficiencies. They watched other teams’ land stars and high-profile players while they settled for B- and C-tier players. Cy Young- favorite Gerrit Cole will do his best to lead the Yanks’ rotation, but there isn’t much depth beyond him.
Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay had an interesting offseason. The highlight of their offseason was not signing a marquee free agent but extending 2nd-year player Wander Franco to an 11-year, $182 million contract. The Rays lost pitcher Collin McHugh after just one year, along with a few hitters, particularly Nelson Cruz, so they are basically riding on Franco to have an MVP-type season.
Tampa Bay may not be as talented as they were in years past, but they have exceeded their projected win total in each of the last four seasons, showing everyone that you should never count them out.
Boston’s Offseason Moves
Boston deserves an A- letter grade for their offseason activity. Their biggest acquisition was, of course, shortstop Trevor Story. Story is a two-time All-Star and Silver Slugger who will contribute massively in revamping the team’s defense. He will also add to the Red Sox’s already-potent offense that was top-four in the league, all in runs per game, hits per game, and batting average last season.
As for their rotation, Boston signed pitchers James Paxton, Michael Wacha, and Rich Hill for depth. Although, they each carry some form of baggage. Boston did lose right fielder Hunter Renfroe to Milwaukee, but they made amends by reacquiring outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
The team’s X-factor is ace pitcher Chris Sale. Sale will miss the start of the season with a rib stress fracture, but if he can return to full strength, then Boston can be scary. These moves together likely won’t put them over the top, but they should elevate Boston’s chances of becoming the divisional winner.
Considering last season and the recent offseason, Toronto (+185) is the favorite to win the AL East, and rightfully so, as they clearly had the best offseason of the group. New York (+195) has the smallest margin for error this upcoming season, considering their holes all throughout the roster, making them the worst value to bet on.
Tampa Bay (+300) always finds a way to overachieve in the regular season yet underachieve in the postseason. Since we’re only talking abt the regular-season division title, it would be disrespectful to ignore Tampa Bay.
If Boston’s odds were smaller than +350, then I would highly suggest avoiding them at all costs. But given their potential, I would not be totally shocked if they manage to steal the division’s top spot.
They are a low-floor, very high-ceiling team, putting them at a solid value at +550.
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