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With the AL East on the Rise, It's Now or Never for the Blue Jays

It was back to the drawing board for the Blue Jays brass after Toronto was eliminated in the ALCS for the second consecutive year and they had to get a little creative with the loss of Edwin Encarnacion (and 42 home runs) rocking the makeup of their batting lineup. The biggest move Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins made this offseason was the signing of switch-hitting free agent Kendrys Morales and whether or not he’s able to replicate the production of EE is yet to be seen.

The former Royal should replace a lot of the power lost during a very cold winter for the Jays but Toronto’s real strength in 2017 should be a starting rotation that was the best in the American League last season. Aaron Sanchez is on track to take over as the ace in the Big Smoke while Marcus Stroman, who’s having a nice run with the Unites States in the World Baseball Classic, is primed for a rebound season after a strong second half in 2016. Add Francisco Liriano, Marco Estrada (3.48 ERA in 2016) and 20-game winner JA Happ to the mix and you’ve got the ingredients to overwhelm even the deadliest of AL batting lineups.

With the top of the order set to feature Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Morales, Troy Tulowitzki, Devon Travis and Russell Martin, there will still be more than enough runs to go around. The problem for this team is going to be holding on to any lead they might get with a bullpen that leaves a lot to be desired.

Although the window closed a bit with the offseason departures, there’s still a stiff breeze rolling through the crack and if the pitching staff doesn’t regress, the Jays should be on their way to their third straight appearance in the postseason.

With that in mind, let’s take a peek at some of the Jays’ futures lines for the upcoming season.

World Series +2200

You’re getting decent value here with the Jays’ hype in a definite lull and if you’re someone like me who doesn’t think Toronto got a whole lot worse in the offseason, you’ll be all over this line that pegs the Blue Birds as the ninth- or 10th-best team in baseball.

Toronto has won the World Series twice in its 40-year MLB tenure, meaning by straight math, the Jays have a five percent chance to win it again this year (20/1). Although that’s an extremely reductive way to look at things, the numbers add up.

Another reason to hop on the Jays in this spot is the desperation factor. Former GM Alex Anthopoulos was heavily criticized by the current front office for selling the farm for the likes of David Price and Tulo in an attempt to expedite the winning process and Toronto is now in a bad spot where the prospect pool is as dry as it’s ever been. If the Jays don’t win in these next two seasons, it will likely be a decade or longer before they're serious contenders again.

AL Pennant +1000

Third time’s a charm for Toronto, right? Probably not.

If parity was the theme for the American League in 2016, this season should be the complete antithesis of that. Offseason trades and free-agent signings have stacked the top teams in the AL so Toronto, one of the only teams that remained mostly stagnant, may struggle to keep up with clubs like the Red Sox, Indians and Astros and it’s tough to see them beating any of those teams in a seven-game American League Championship Series.

AL East +425

Speaking of the resurgent Red Sox, the boys from Beantown are the team to beat in the AL East this season, pegged as -175 favorites at Bovada, with a roster that rivals that of the Chicago Cubs for talent. If the season goes according to plan, they’ll run away with this division for the second year in a row.

That said, Toronto is the second favorite to win the division and is offering excellent value at just over 4/1. Manager John Gibbons has won just one AL East title in his two stints as the club’s skipper but with an average record of 84-78 in his seven full seasons with Toronto and 162 games still to play this year, anything is possible.

Since 2000, the average win total of the AL East-winning team was 96.59 and that club has enjoyed an average winning margin of 5.53 games. Toronto has never broken through the century win mark as a franchise and with Boston having all the pieces in place to win 100 or more this season, I see very few scenarios where the Jays win the division in 2017.

Regular Season Win Total 84.5

Easy money on the OVER in my opinion. The Jays need to earn a record of 92-70 this season to bring the franchise’s overall win/loss record over .500 and that’s about where I see them finishing.

The pitching will be the straw that stirs the drink for Toronto and if the bullpen, led by Joe Biagini (3.06 ERA in 2016) and Roberto Osuna (2.68 ERA and 36 saves in 2016) can just survive, 85 wins is a modest projection.

All in all, this team is as talented as the one that won 93 games in 2015 and with the Yankees, Orioles and Rays all in various stages of rebuilding, there will be more than enough wins for Canada’s only major league franchise to breach 85 wins.

Kendrys Morales to lead the league in home runs +10000

Is this a reach? Yes. Will I bet it myself? Maybe. During his 10-year career, Morales has never hit more than 34 home runs and is coming off a season where he socked 30 in 154 games. The switch-hitting 33-year-old, however, has never played in a batter’s ballpark and the Rogers Centre definitely fits that description.

Looking back at their first full seasons with the Jays, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hit 54 and 42 home runs respectively after incredibly lackluster careers with every club they’d been with previously and I'm hoping we see the same thing from the Cuban slugger.

If chicks truly do love the long ball, they must be enamored with the AL East as there were an insane 1049 dingers hit in the division’s ballparks last year. Combine that with the trend that’s seeing home runs per at-bat go up every year and I don’t think it’s outrageous to put Morales’ ceiling at 40-45 home runs as he gets set to be the Jays’ everyday designated hitter.

2017 Toronto Blue Jays Futures Odds
MarketOdds
World Series+2200
American League Pennant+1000
American League East+425
Win Totals 84.5

Odds as of March 22 at Bovada

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