The champagne-soaked carpet in the visitor’s clubhouse at Minute Maid Park wasn’t even dry before odds came out for the 2020 World Series. The Washington Nationals ended a long drought for D.C. baseball by taking down the title. The Chicago Cubs ended their long drought in 2016. Will that open the door for a team like the Cleveland Indians, who are now at 71 years and counting?
How about a 28th championship for the New York Yankees, who haven’t won one since 2009? Maybe the first in franchise history for the Tampa Bay Rays? Or the Oakland A’s, who haven’t won since 1989. Or the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are now over 30 years with their drought, despite spending millions upon millions of dollars the last few years in pursuit of the Commissioner’s Trophy.
Multiple options are out there for bettors looking to get the best prices, including odds from DraftKings Sportsbook and PointsBet Sportsbook. We still have to get through free agency and the bevy of trades that will happen, but those that have the ability to predict the future or speculate on where big free agents like Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon will end up can get a leg up on the rest of the market.
The Astros and the Dodgers are the co-favorites with odds of +550 at DraftKings. PointsBet has Houston slightly ahead of the Dodgers at +400 and +450 respectively. All of the same teams you would expect to see are listed among the short prices. Basically, take a list of this season’s playoff teams and add the Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, and Chicago Cubs and you have all of the prices that are +2500 or lower.
The Red Sox, Phillies, and Cubs have a lot of money and a lot of resources and can be major players for the big free agents. They also have a lot of high-priced talent that underachieved in 2019 to fall back on.
In the current landscape of Major League Baseball, long shots are not particularly attractive. The gap between the good teams and the bad teams has never been larger. The small number of teams that fall in the middle, like the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondbacks are up against it. It is hard for the Reds to compete with teams like the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals that have huge payrolls. If Arizona can get in, a Wild Card Game awaits because the Dodgers are not losing their hold on the NL West anytime soon.
It can be done. We just saw the Nationals do it. They beat the Brewers and Josh Hader in the Wild Card Game. Then they bested the Dodgers, Cardinals, and Astros. Getting hot at the right time is sometimes all that it takes, but it also helps to have an elite rotation like Washington’s to pair with a very talented lineup.
As far as the short prices go, the Astros are a tough sell. As great and as balanced as that team is, innings from Cole are going to have to be replaced. Cole’s postgame comments after Game 7 regarding his non-appearance in the deciding game make it seem as if he is moving on with a big pay day.
Until the Dodgers get over the hump, taking them at short prices is nearly impossible. The Yankees look attractive, especially because there’s a chance that they could loosen the purse strings for somebody like Cole. They should also have a full season of Luis Severino next year, which is like a free agent signing in and of itself.
With 162 games plus the Tournament of Variance known as the playoffs, betting those single-digit prices is not easy. You’re better off taking some shots on the mid-range teams that could get better through free agency or trade.
With that in mind, here are some contenders for next season in the futures market:
Cleveland Indians (+2000 DK; +1600 PB) – The Indians only have one team to worry about in the AL Central and it is the Minnesota Twins. The Twins were on an historic pace offensively for most of the first half and the Indians still managed to have a few days tied atop the division in August.
Corey Kluber returns and a full year off should help, as his innings workload was starting to create a lot of wear and tear. With the emergence of Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger, not to mention guys like Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac, the Indians have the makings of a Nationals-esque rotation. The lineup should be improved both internally and externally, with Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor healthy and some dollars to spend on some position player depth.
Minnesota Twins (+2200 DK; +2000 PB) – The same applies to the Twins. Their lineup is not going to get worse going into next season barring some sort of injury. Just about all of the position players are back in the fold. The time is now for the Twins to spend on some pitching help and options will be available out there. Pitching coach Wes Johnson did a phenomenal job with the in-house hurlers and should continue to help those guys grow and develop.
The Twins only have to worry about the Indians. Some will talk themselves into the White Sox, as was the case last season, but Chicago isn’t there yet, even if Michael Kopech comes back healthy. Unless you back the elite teams that are likely to win divisions, you probably have to sweat a Wild Card Game and then a series against that league’s best team. With the Indians and Twins, one of them will win the division, which creates an immediate hedging opportunity.
Cincinnati Reds (+6600 DK; +5000 PB) – The Reds are an interesting team in the NL Central. The acquisition of Trevor Bauer and some very imaginative hires should allow this team to improve in a lot of key areas. Spending money on some offensive upgrades should be a priority, but the renaissance of Sonny Gray and the development of guys like Luis Castillo should leave the Reds in good shape on the pitching side.
All of the NL Central teams are flawed in one way or another. The Cardinals aren’t a great offensive team and will lose Marcell Ozuna. The Cubs have all sorts of issues going on and something of a payroll crunch with escalating salaries for some of their core players. The Brewers operate on thin margins with a very small payroll. The Reds aggressively pursued trade options for front-line pitching last offseason and the expectation is for more of the same on the trade market this year, but with a hitter in mind. Don’t be surprised if this is a team that gets much better on paper over the winter and winds up with lower odds than this going into Opening Day.