The offseason in sports is a myth. It doesn’t exist. That was very evident in early December when PointsBet and DraftKings posted MLB futures odds, including season win totals, division odds, pennant futures and World Series Odds. The sports betting calendar is legitimately 24/7/365 and that applies to baseball as well.
It is crazy to think about posting futures odds while the Winter Meetings are in process with so many key free agent dominoes to fall and so many potential trades, but being one of the first to market has a lot of advantages. It isn’t a bad idea to see where you stand and to be able to adjust accordingly for when people start betting on baseball. For the bettors, it isn’t a bad idea to see how things stack up so that you can start forming some opinions of your own.
The reigning World Series champs are among the second and third favorites, as the Washington Nationals sit behind the consensus favorite Los Angeles Dodgers. The Nationals are grouped together with teams like the Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies, and St. Louis Cardinals. There is quite a bias towards the NL East in these future odds, which doesn’t say much for the teams in the NL Central or the NL West.
It also says that you should bet the Miami Marlins season win total under if all of these NL East teams are supposed to make big runs.
Because there are four NL East teams up among the top half of the odds, that means that there has to be some value elsewhere on the board, right? The disparities between the young Braves offense with stars like Ronald Acuna and Ozzie Albies, the Phillies with their strong lineup and solid pitching staff, the Nationals with Stephen Strasburg back in the mix, and the Mets with their high-end rotation seem to be quite small.
Somebody has to win the other two divisions. Even if both Wild Card teams come from the East, which is possible, the Central is up for grabs. The West probably isn’t with the Dodgers so much better than everybody else. The DraftKings price is better than the PointsBet price on the Dodgers, who could very well draw the Wild Card Game winner because the East teams will be beating each other, which means home field for the Dodgers. But, the problem is that is a short gain on a long-term hold.
A better option is to sort through the longer shots and the NL Central teams. If you do want somebody that could upend the Dodgers, the San Diego Padres look like at some big numbers with a strong young core of position players and pitchers and a well-regarded hire in Jayce Tingler as the new manager.
The Cincinnati Reds stand out in the NL Central. The Cardinals will regress. They were one of the weakest playoff teams last season and really only got there because of a huge Jack Flaherty second half. The Cubs have all sorts of things going on and could lose Kris Bryant over the winter in a trade. Even if they don’t, that pitching staff isn’t up to par.
That leaves the Reds, who have a strong rotation with Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, Anthony DeSclafani, and money to spend on some upgrades in the starting pitching department. They also have a well-balanced lineup and a passable bullpen. The Reds have been very aggressive the last couple of offseasons in laying some groundwork to make deals and they’ve made some great player development hires. A price in the 20/1 range on the Reds is great and it should hold value even down into the 15 or 16/1 range.
Over in the America League, things are a lot more balanced. There are three good teams in the East, two in the Central, and two in the West. Expect Houston to take a step back this season. The Astros are losing Gerrit Cole and will have to call upon more young kids for innings and also the return of Lance McCullers Jr. from Tommy John surgery.
Boston could take a big step down with the loss of Mookie Betts if the Red Sox find a trade partner. The Tampa Bay Rays look improved from last season and should end up getting more from Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow with some better fortunes on the health side. Because of the parity in the East, much like in the Senior Circuit, finding betting value on pennant futures is hard. Tampa Bay in the 9/1 range makes sense, as they are set up in a similar way to Washington last season with the ability to shrink the pitching staff in the playoffs.
The value once again comes in the Central Division with the Indians or Twins. The winner of that division won’t have to play in the Wild Card Game and it will be one of those two teams. The problem with something like an Oakland A’s future is that topping the Astros is hard and navigating the one-game playoff just for a chance to face the team with the best record is no picnic. Perhaps the Los Angeles Angels in the low-to-mid 20/1 range are worthwhile, as they have some money to spend, but the bullpen still isn’t very good and the position player group outside of Mike Trout is not great.
The Indians carry the most value from an AL Pennant standpoint. Last season, the Indians lost Corey Kluber for five months, Carlos Carrasco to leukemia treatments, Mike Clevinger for two months, and traded Trevor Bauer. They still won 93 games. The position player group has fewer questions right now compared to last season with the emergence of Oscar Mercado and the trade for Franmil Reyes. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor entered last season hurt and both had poor first halves.
The Twins had an historic offensive season that is likely to regress and there have not been enough pitching upgrades as of yet to expect last season’s performance to return.
Therefore, between the two leagues, the Ohio teams, Cincinnati and Cleveland, carry the most value in the futures market with two months until Spring Training.