The Evil Empires have returned to power as the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry takes center stage in the American League East once again. Can anyone else challenge the hated rivals, or will the BoSox and Bronx Bombers go blow-for-blow all season long? Covers Expert Matt Fargo breaks down the division and makes his regular season win total picks for each team.
Division odds: 80/1
Season win total: 71.5
Why bet the Orioles: Baltimore was able to keep most of its offense intact as it was able to sign Manny Machado to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration and also has Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, Tim Beckham, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. The Orioles finished 29th in WAR for starting pitchers last season but the good news is that they did not keep Wade Miley, who led the league in walks, Ubaldo Jimenez, who allowed the sixth most runs, and Chris Tillman, who posted a 7.84 ERA.
Why not bet the Orioles: While the rotation lost a majority of their liabilities, the Orioles are going to have to count on mostly young arms to fill the void so there are still questions. The offense looks like it has some punch on paper but most of the above-mentioned names had drop-offs last season. That includes Machado, who is a free agency after this season, and should the Orioles struggle early on, a trade is likely as the will look to go into rebuilding mode.
Pick: Over 71.5
Division odds: 6/5
Season win total: 92.5
Why to bet the Red Sox: Boston won the A.L. East last season and is loaded again to make a run. Chris Sale was a sensational pick up last season, but he came up small in the postseason as did most of the starting rotation. The Red Sox should get a bounce back season from Rick Porcello, who won the A.L. Cy Young in 2016, and David Price should rebound as well following an injury-plagued season. They landed J.D. Martinez to bolster the offense that finished just 14th in slugging percentage and 15th in home runs.
Why to not bet the Red Sox: Expectations were high last season and are arguably higher this season which sets up Boston to underachieve. While Porcello and Price should be better, if they are not significantly better, the rotation could be in deep trouble. Martinez will no doubt help the offense, but the Red Sox took a big step backwards last season, so they need several other players to step up. Boston will be just as good, if not better, but the pieces need to fall perfectly in place to win another division title.
Pick: Over 92.5
Division odds: 10/11
Season win total: 94.5
Why to bet the Yankees: The Yankees landed an unexpected prize when they were able to obtain Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins as they now pack the best one-two punch in baseball along with Aaron Judge. Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregarious and Greg Bird round out a youthful and potent offense. New York acquired Sonny Gray from Oakland last season and along with Luis Severino, who fulfilled expectations last year, and Masahiro Tanaka form one of the better top of the rotations in the A.L.
Why to not bet the Yankees: The already publicly loved Yankees will have even more public love this year as expectations are through the roof and they will be overpriced all season. The back end of the rotation is suspect with C.C. Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery and despite having one of the best closers in the game, the bullpen was below average last season. The Yankees went 5-6 in extra innings, 18-26 in one-run games and 29-35 in games decided by two runs or less.
Pick: Under 94.5
Division odds: 60/1
Season win total: 73.5
Why to bet the Rays: It was a fairly successful season for Tampa Bay last year despite possessing the third lowest payroll in baseball as it won 80 games which came after winning just 68 games in 2016. The starting rotation was the highlight, led by Chris Archer who finished fourth in the league in strikeouts and overall, the Rays finished 8th in ERA. The bullpen was also solid as they had a top ten ERA. While the trade of Evan Longoria looks like a hit, he had an OBP of just .313.
Why to not bet the Rays: Longoria will still be a tough loss as his veteran leadership will be missed the most. The offense was almost a carbon copy from 2016 when they were near the top of baseball in home runs but were near the bottom in runs scored. Last season, Tampa Bay was 6th in home runs but 25th in runs scored and was near the bottom of the league in several other offensive categories. Archer will be sought after at the trade deadline so if he is dealt, the Rays will have a long end of summer.
Pick: Under 73.5
Division odds: 8/1
Season win total: 81.5
Why to bet the Blue Jays: Toronto regressed by 13 wins last season after making the playoffs the previous two years. The Blue Jays were hit by the injury bug as Josh Donaldson missed significant time, Troy Tulowitzki played only 66 games and Aaron Sanchez made only eight starts after going 15-2 in 2016. Staying healthy cannot be predicted but the Blue Jays should have better fortunes in 2018. Marcus Stroman is a stud on the mound while Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk solidify the outfield.
Why to not bet the Blue Jays: For an offense that went from one of the best to one of the worst, expecting a reversal once again may be too much to ask for. This team is not getting any younger as Granderson, Jose Bautista, who was horrible last season, Kendrys Morales and Tulowitzki are all 34 or older. Toronto made some decent acquisitions during the offseason but did not make any blockbuster move that will let them contend with the Yankees or Red Sox unless something really special takes place.
Pick: Over 81.5