AL East futures odds preview: Two World Series contenders locked in a tight division race

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New York Yankees' Aaron Judge (99) steals second base against against Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Santiago Espinal (5) during the third inning of a baseball game Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

The American League East is one of the most competitive divisions in baseball year after year. This is highlighted by the fact that each of the five teams has won the division pennant at least once since 2014.

While the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are the historically dominant franchises in the AL East, the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays have gone all in during recent seasons. Don’t overlook the Baltimore Orioles — who are on the come-up with a star-studded, young core — either.

The Yankees ran away with last year’s division crown after a historic season from Aaron Judge. New York (99-63) edged out the Blue Jays (92-70) by seven games with no other team truly testing the Yankees’ resolve. The Rays (86-76) finished third, followed by the Orioles (83-79) and Red Sox (78-84).

Sportsbooks see the AL East shaping out nearly the same way in 2023.

The Yankees (+115) and Blue Jays (+185) are expected to duke it out again atop the division. The Rays (+360) aren’t exactly long shots but they’re not expected to contend either. The Red Sox (+1800) and Orioles (+2500) are being given virtually no chance to start the season.

Let’s break down each team, their chances and discuss AL East futures:

New York Yankees

Odds to win the AL East: +115

Odds to win the AL: +350

Odds to win the World Series: +750

New York did exactly what it needed to do this offseason to solidify itself as an American League contender again this season. The Yankees locked up their two stars who were set to hit free agency (Anthony Rizzo and Judge) and added an excellent No. 2 in Carlos Rodon.

The 2022 AL East champions are set to make another run at the division, and they’re one of the most popular choices to win the World Series too. There’s some value in picking New York to repeat as division champions at +115. However, the optimism should be of the cautious variety given the historic unpredictability of this division. The Yankees are the best roster from top to bottom though.

Toronto Blue Jays

Odds to win the AL East: +185

Odds to win the AL: +650

Odds to win the World Series: +1400

Toronto’s biggest stars were unable to carry the team to a division crown in 2022. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. followed up his MVP-level 2021 campaign with a “disappointing year” — relatively speaking, of course — where he slashed .274/.339/.480 with 32 home runs. Cavan Biggio was toeing the Mendoza Line all season and George Springer missed around 30 games due to injury.

Despite all of these struggles, the Blue Jays managed to stay within 10 games of the soaring Yankees. The additions of Chris Bassitt, Daulton Varsho, Kevin Kiermaier and Chad Green should only close the gap between the two. If Toronto’s core can get back to its best, the Blue Jays could be a steal at +185.

Tampa Bay Rays

Odds to win the AL East: +360

Odds to win the AL: +1200

Odds to win the World Series: +2500

Tampa Bay is the silent assassin sitting in the middle of two groups. The Blue Jays and Yankees are seen as the contenders whereas the Orioles and Red Sox are rebuilding. The Rays? They’re the wild card.

Tampa Bay didn’t make headlines in the offseason, aside from signing Zach Eflin from the Philadelphia Phillies, but it rarely does. The Rays have always been a well-run ballclub relying on under-the-radar stars to succeed. This year will be no different and with Randy Arozarena getting back to his best in the World Baseball Classic, Tampa Bay (+360) could make some noise come October.

Boston Red Sox

Odds to win the AL East: +1800

Odds to win the AL: +3500

Odds to win the World Series: +7000

While the Rays are considered the wild card, there’s no telling what the Boston Red Sox can do in 2023. Oddsmakers don’t give Alex Cora’s team much of a shot — probably due to the injury to star infielder Trevor Story — to win anything this season. However, the Red Sox signed a few capable veterans in the offseason who could be playing with a chip on their shoulder. Re-signing Rafael Devers and adding Masataka Yoshida look like fantastic bits of business in Boston too.

If Alex Cora can get experienced additions like Corey Kluber, Adam Duvall, Kenley Jansen, Adalberto Mondesi, Raimel Tapia and Justin Turner on the same wavelength, the Red Sox could potentially be a steal at +1800 to win the AL East. Call me crazy, but it’s happened before.

Baltimore Orioles

Odds to win the AL East: +2500

Odds to win the AL: +3300

Odds to win the World Series: +6600

Baltimore broke out last season as the rebuilding franchise went from 53 wins to 82 in just one year. There were a lot of expectations placed on the Orioles this offseason with everyone waiting to see how they’d take the next step. Unfortunately for interested spectators, the Baltimore front office failed to make any impactful additions.

Adam Frazier, Kyle Gibson and James McCann were the biggest moves made in recent months, which is perhaps why sharps have stayed away from Orioles futures. Las Vegas has Baltimore at +2500 odds to win the AL East, which is the worst of the five franchises. Can the Orioles’ young stars carry them to a division title or even contention? I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath — they still have a long way to go before bettors should back them to win trophies.

AL East best bet: Baltimore Orioles UNDER 78 wins (-115)

As the paragraphs above indicate, I’m not excited about the Orioles’ off-season moves. The last few months were Baltimore’s opportunity to announce itself as an AL East contender … and it fell flat on its face in free agency. I don’t imagine this went over well with those in the clubhouse either.

The reality is that the Orioles don’t have enough pitching or veteran leadership to be able to replicate last season’s success. The AL East is looking like it’ll be even more competitive than last season with each team getting stronger. I don’t think Baltimore touches 78 wins, never mind the 83 wins from last season.

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