The MLB futures odds at all sportsbooks have the Red Sox as huge favorites in the AL East Division, with the Blue Jays, Orioles and Yankees (sorry Rays) all in pursuit and out to prove oddsmakers wrong. Can they?
Every once in a while, fans like to see a free agent fall short of his big payday in the offseason and be forced to swallow a little pride. This winter, that player happened to be Toronto slugger Jose Bautista who, along with his agent Jay Alou, thought he'd be entertaining nine-figure offers.
Instead, Bautista ended up inking a one-year deal back with the Blue Jays that will pay him $18 million in 2017 with options and clauses that could make it a three-year, $60 million deal. So things didn't work out too bad for Jose Antonio Santos Bautista in the end.
Several factors cooled Bautista on the free-agent front this year, beginning with the fact the 36-year-old Dominican is coming off a poor showing in his walk year, the third time since he was 28 that injuries shortened his time on the diamond. Shoot, his return to the Blue Jays was anticipated for several weeks and didn't even cause a ripple on MLB futures odds boards.
Sox & Jays Feature Deep Rotations
Toronto still sits a rather distant second in the AL East behind Boston in preseason rankings. The Red Sox are AL favorites at 3/2 to win the Junior Circuit with the Cleveland Indians at 5/1 as their closest challenger. The Blue Jays are seen as Boston's closest competition in the division race and sit around 7/1 at several of SBR's top-rated sports books to win the American League flag.
The AL East produced three playoff teams a year ago, Boston out in front of both the Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles (10/1) by four games. Make no mistake about the Red Sox being the favorites to repeat and seen as the best of the best in the AL despite David Ortiz retiring. Young studs like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley showed last season they're ready to pick up Big Papi's mantle, and the Sox added the White Sox's Chris Sale to a rotation that already included David Price and 2016 AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.
Even with the loss of Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto remains a very tough lineup with Bautista's return. Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson make as strong of an offensive 2B-SS-3B trio as you can find, and it's a deep rotation with Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, JA Happ and Marcus Stroman.
Yanks Again Feature Strong Bullpen
Baltimore, I'm just not so sure about. With the exception of Manny Machado and Zach Britton, maybe a little Chris Tillman and Adam Jones thrown in, there's really not that much to be impressed about this team. Can Buck Showalter squeeze out a little more than what's really available on the roster?
We don't even have to think about Tampa Bay in this quintet, the Rays really out of the loop at 40/1 to win the American League. We do need to give some consideration to the New York Yankees, however. Yeah, at 12/1 in the AL, New York is something of a long shot. Still, as weak as this rotation might look right now, Joe Girardi has an incredibly strong bullpen and a mad mix of power, speed and defense in his lineup.
Boston is an easy free baseball pick to make in the division, and I don't see Toronto or Baltimore putting up as much a challenge as they did a year ago. If the Yankees can get anything out of their rotation, they could make a wild-card run ahead of the Blue Jays and Orioles.