The American League East Division odds paint the picture of one team being a whole lot better than the others. The New York Yankees are a heavy favorite to return to the postseason and bypass the Wild Card Round. They finished seven games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in last year’s 60-game sample despite being a pretty sizable favorite going into the short season and also going into what we thought was going to be the full season.
Personally, I loved the Rays last year at this time. I went into early March with tickets on them to win this division and also to win the World Series. They were mispriced and way too much respect was being given to the Yankees. This season, the Rays go into the season without Blake Snell and Charlie Morton. After being priced in the +650 range at this time last year, the Rays have a shorter price this season.
There is a little more competition in the race this season because of the Toronto Blue Jays. Toronto grabbed arguably the best free agent hitter on the board in George Springer and snuck into the playoffs in the short season. With the youth movement in the lineup, oddsmakers and bettors are giving the Blue Jays a lot of respect, though we might want to refer to them as the Dunedin-Buffalo Blue Jays because playing in Toronto won’t be an option for a while.
Odds To Win The AL East
|New York Yankees||-200||-200|
|Tampa Bay Rays||+350||+350|
|Toronto Blue Jays||+350||+350|
|Boston Red Sox||+2000||+2000|
Let’s go ahead and put the cart well in front of the horse here. The Yankees at -200 is a good bet. Going chalk-heavy with an investment that will effectively be held in escrow for more than six months is not something that people enjoy doing, but I have a hard time seeing how the Rays or the Jays are able to unseat the Boys from the Bronx.
The price of -200 implies that the Yankees win this division two out of every three times. I would argue that it’s up in the 70+% range, so I’d be more in the -250 range, if not higher. The presence of Toronto’s offense, Tampa Bay’s pitching staff, and maybe even the long shot Boston Red Sox seem to be keeping this price a little bit lower than it should be. The Yankees are the most balanced team in this division on paper.
I think Tampa Bay is the clear second choice, though, which the odds do not support. Toronto certainly has the offense to compete, but I have concerns about the starting rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu was excellent last season and has been excellent throughout his career, but every option behind Ryu is questionable. Robbie Ray is an enigma. Nate Pearson is 24 and barely threw 100 innings across three levels in 2019 before throwing just 18 innings in 2020 at the MLB level. Tanner Roark and Steven Matz have been around the block multiple times, but don’t have very high ceilings.
The Toronto bullpen could be really interesting because there are some multi-inning relief weapons out there like Ross Stripling, Tyler Chatwood, Ryan Borucki, Anthony Kay, and even Julian Merryweather, who was a starter before Tommy John surgery. My guess is that the Jays are going to use piggybacks and attempt to limit the third time through the order exposure for their starters.
The Rays are going to look to do the same thing because the ceiling for their rotation has come down with Snell and Morton gone. They’ll be turning to guys like Michael Wacha and Rich Hill, who both have extensive injury histories. They’ll hope that Chris Archer can find his footing back in a familiar place. They’ll hope that Tyler Glasnow can stay healthy after throwing just 60.2 innings in 2019.
With any season-long wager, you have to think about the contingency plans for these teams. What is Plan B? Plan C? Plan D, E, F, and G? While the Blue Jays and Rays do have lots of options, so do the Yankees, but with what I still believe is the best lineup (sorry Toronto fans!), the most projectable rotation, and a bullpen that should rival Tampa’s relief corps.
If you want to avoid the chalk, I prefer Tampa Bay to Toronto, but New York -200 is the best option here in my opinion.