Blue Jays the Early Favorites to Win World Series After Picking Up R.A. Dickey

John McDonald, Travis Snider, Jose Bautista, Aaron Hill, Vernon WellsThe Toronto Blue Jays are the early favorite to win the World Series after an offseason that has seen the top choice change several times so far.

First the Detroit Tigers were the 2013 World Series favorites at Bovada. The Tigers have had a good offseason so far, signing former Angels outfielder Torii Hunter and re-signing pitcher Anibal Sanchez, the No. 2 free-agent hurler on the market. With that being said, Detroit is now the fifth favorite at the book at 10-1.

The Los Angeles Dodgers stole the headlines next, becoming World Series favorites after signing Zack Greinke, the top pitcher on the market. Adding Greinke to last year’s haul of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, plus the re-signing of closer Brandon League, made the Dodgers the National League team to beat. But Los Angeles is now the 17-2 co-second favorite.

Right there with the Dodgers at 17-2 is the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels couldn’t re-sign Greinke and were expected to be somewhat quiet this offseason after being the big spenders last winter in bringing in future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson. But the Halos were apparently tired of hearing about their Dodger neighbors. They stunned many in baseball last week by signing former American League MVP and Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal. The team has major holes in the rotation after losing Greinke, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, but a lineup with Pujols, Hamilton and reigning AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout is scary. That Hamilton signing briefly turned the Angels into World Series favorites.

The Hot Stove League continues to burn, and now the Toronto Blue Jays have moved into the favored role at 8-1 to win their first title in 20 years. The Jays pulled off the first blockbuster trade of this offseason in landing Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson from the Miami Marlins for prospects in addition to signing free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera.

The Jays made it clear all winter that they were ready to spend and go for it now — especially with the Yankees and Red Sox suddenly looking vulnerable. Toronto wasn’t done, acquiring National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets early this week for more prospects. That moved Toronto to the front of the futures odds. The team also signed Dickey to an extension, something the Mets and the knuckleballer couldn’t agree on.

Dickey, 38, was one of the most unlikely Cy Young winners ever. He was essentially a journeyman with a career high of 11 wins. But in 2012, Dickey used his knuckler to go 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA in leading the National League in innings pitched (233 2/3), strikeouts (230) and complete games (five). He should slide into the top of what is now a solid rotation on paper with Buehrle, Johnson, Brandon Morrow and Ricky Romero.

Still, expecting Dickey, who throws an unusually hard knuckleball, to put up similar numbers to this past season is likely a pipe dream, especially with a move to the American League East. Plus, Toronto did give up one of the best catching prospects in the game in Travis d’Arnaud.

The book currently lists Toronto as the +180 favorite to win the AL East, co-favorites with the Yankees, who have been mostly quiet this offseason as they attempt to get under the luxury tax threshold. It’s still possible the Bombers (12-1 to win the World Series), who won’t have Alex Rodriguez for at least half the season, will make a run at the top free agent left, former Braves outfielder Michael Bourn.

The Red Sox (+500 on AL East, 25-1 on World Series odds) added Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, David Ross and Ryan Dempster, but most would agree they are retooling and didn’t get a difference-making star in the group. The Tampa Bay Rays (+500) lost outfielder B.J. Upton and pitcher James Shields due to financial concerns. Nearly everyone thinks the Baltimore Orioles (+1000) were one-season wonders in 2012, and the Birds haven’t made any big additions. Thus it could be Toronto’s division to lose. ZiPS currently projects Toronto’s talent at a 93-win level. New York won the East last year with 95.

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