The Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees took the division crown and AL Wild Card respectively a year ago, but it’s the Boston Red Sox that baseball odds have favored to conquer the AL East in 2011. With the improvements both the Blue Jays and Orioles made this past off-season, the AL East once again looks to be the cream of the crop in terms of overall division prowess heading into the MLB betting season.
(the number listed next to each team is the payout on a $100 wager if that team wins the A.L. East)
1. Boston Red Sox (-150) – Though the Red Sox churned out 89 wins a year ago, Manager Terry Francona’s team was down all year as injuries prevented the club from ultimately competing with the big boys. The Beantown faithful hope the experience gained by some of the bench players will only help aid the BoSox into qualifying for the second season this time around. With the hometown faithful disinterested a year ago, GM Theo Epstein went out and made sure Red Sox Nation is ready for the new season. The acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford only add to Boston’s impressive arsenal, and the bullpen added a couple huge pieces in Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler. If both Josh Beckett and John Lackey return to form, the Red Sox should once again earn 90+ wins if not surpass the century mark. Get ready to lay a ton of chalk with this outfit in 2011!
2. New York Yankees (+190) – Only a year removed from winning it all, the Bronx Bombers enter the 2011 season with a bunch of question marks. GM Brian Cashman was unable to land either Cliff Lee or Zach Greinke this past off-season, but instead, offered up one heck of a sweet deal to Rafael Soriano who had no choice but to sign as the team’s setup man. The starting rotation still consists of C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett, but Andy Pettitte’s retirement leaves a number of problem areas in the 4th and 5th spots. The offense is still stacked so this club looks almost certain to win 90 or more games, but one has to wonder how good the Yankees have to feel about owning a sub $200 million dollar payroll with no major moves made.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (+800) – Losing the franchise’s most notable player in Carl Crawford to the Boston Red Sox hurts; so does the departure of clubhouse favorite Carlos Pena. However, in shipping Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs as well as receiving compensation for Crawford and Rafael Soriano, the Rays will have a bevy of draft picks to work with in the coming years. A tip of the cap must go to VP Andrew Friedman and company for coming out well after getting rid of the cornerstones of the franchise. That said, the immediate future hardly looks good for Manager Joe Maddon’s outfit; especially with the recent signings of the aging Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez. The bullpen also took a mighty tumble. I don’t see the Rays competing within the rugged AL East in any way, shape or form.
4. Toronto Blue Jays (+1500) – The Blue Jays were one of the four members of this division that finished with a +.500 record a season ago; it was also the third best bet in all of baseball having churned out a $1437 profit for MLB bettors overall. Now they enter the 2011 season amidst a fabulous offseason that saw them unload the ridiculous contract it gave to Vernon Wells and continued to stockpile its heap of untapped raw talent. Still with a rock solid starting staff and an everyday line-up that still consists of Jose Bautista and Adam Lind, Toronto will certainly remain in the thick of the AL East battle for the better part of the season. If some of their up and comers also make an impact, the Blue Jays could be the surprise team of this division.
5. Baltimore Orioles (+1800) – Buck Showalter completely changed the fortunes of this defunct franchise when he took over at the tail end of last season. Orioles’ fans must take solace in the fact that the club went 34-23 under his watch to close out the year. This squad is still inexperienced and green all over, but GM Andy MacPhail brought in some veteran leadership with the signings of Derrek Lee and J.J Hardy, and also reeled in some extra pop with the acquisition of 3B Mark Reynolds. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are some exceptional talents that could flourish with some veteran leadership. The young pitching staff took some beatings a year ago, but that should only prove to serve a purpose this time around. The O’s won’t compete for the division title, but they will be much improved, and should be played more times than not when in the comfy confines of Camden Yards; especially as dogs.
Also see the lastest odds to win the 2011 World Series and odds to win the 2011 American League Pennant.