After dominating the regular season and winning the 2016 World Series, the Chicago Cubs once again look like the best team in baseball heading into this year. However, they have ridiculously short odds (generally about 4/1) and no team has gone back-to-back in the MLB since the Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000. Similarly, after adding Chris Sale to a rotation the features David Price and Rick Porcello, the Red Sox are big chalk (9/2) in the American League.
I’m not wasting my time with either favorite at this point. I see much better value elsewhere. Let’s take an early look at some teams worthy of a small futures wager for the 2017 World Series.
Not only did the Tribe push the Cubs to extra innings in Game 7 last year, they did so without star outfielder Michael Brantley and injured starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. Along with bringing those three impact players back, Cleveland signed slugger Edwin Encarnacion away from Toronto, added outfield depth with veteran Austin Jackson, and strengthened their bullpen with Boone Logan.
Cleveland was one of the best teams in the American League last year, and they are significantly better now. There’s no way their odds should be nearly twice as long as Boston’s.
The Dodgers were able to stay pretty quiet in the off-season thanks to last year’s developments, when they acquired Rich Hill, unveiled Julio Urias, and saw Corey Seager turn into a star. The big move entering this year is the addition of Logan Forsythe and the re-signing several key pieces. The Dodgers now have depth on the mound behind Clayton Kershaw (Hill, Urias, Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Hyun-Jin Ryu), a great closer in Kenley Jansen, and several outfield options. LA also has cash, and that is key during a 162-game season when, inevitably, something will need to be tweaked.
The Dodgers have been in the playoffs four straight years, and reached Game 6 of the NLCS twice. This could be their breakthrough year.
The Nats have been a rather large disappointment over the last several seasons. That said, their roster is stacked. A starting rotation of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez is rivaled by few teams. Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and Anthony Rendon are all young stars. They are either good or great at almost every position, except closer, and they will acquire a ninth-inning guy at some point.
Monday’s signing of catcher Matt Wieters is the type of sneaky move that goes under the radar yet helps you win games throughout the year. Wieters is one of the best in all of baseball at running a game, and pitchers love throwing to him. He won’t put up the same offensive numbers as Wilson Ramos, who’s now with the Rays, but he’s a better all-around option than (now backup) Derek Norris.
Washington’s playoff history is suspect, that’s why you are getting value with them. Well, that and Strasburg’s injury history.
Photo Credit: Arturo Pardavila III (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)].
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