Now that spring training is in full swing, and almost all of the big impact free agents are signed, it is a perfect time to start looking at what teams should garner your attention for a future’s bet to win the 2019 Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series.
There are still a small handful of free agents floating around that could make a difference, mostly veteran starting and relief pitchers. But for the most part, the core of each team is set, and we can start to extract value out of the future’s betting market. Let’s get started by looking at the current betting odds of each of the thirty-two MLB teams on Bovada.
2019 World Series Odds
As you can see, these numbers run anywhere from just 6-1 for the truly elite contenders, to as high as 600-1 for the hapless Baltimore Orioles. This year seems to offer more parity than a typical season as there is no single big favorite, rather, several teams lumped together that all have a reasonable shot of taking home the title. I will breakdown my thoughts on which teams deserve a look at a bet, and which teams you should pass on at this current price.
Here we will breakdown the favorites, the five teams that are offering just single-digit payouts to win it all in 2019.
Boston Red Sox
The defending World Series champs open up this season as the favorites to win it all again in 2019. And why shouldn’t they? The Red Sox bring back most everything from last year’s team that won Boston its ninth World Series title in team history. The only major defections here are second baseman Ian Kinsler and reliever Joe Kelley. But with Dustin Pedroia finally healthy and expected to be back with the team after missing all of last year, Kinsler was expendable, and Kelley was amazing when he was on, and awful when he wasn’t, so he won’t be a major loss. One possible major loss would be that of closer Craig Kimbrel.
The thought has been that eventually the Red Sox will cave to his demands and bring the flame thrower back to Beantown, but several teams, including the Washington Nationals, have recently emerged as contenders to sign Kimbrel. If Boston can’t sign Kimbrel, they are going to need to find a reliable closer to finish games this season. And those types of guys can be hard to find.
It is hard to hate on this team too much for not really trying to get any better in the offseason. When you have as much talent as Boston had last year, you don’t really need to go out shopping to get better, you just need to bring back what you had, and for the most part, Boston did just that. I don’t love a play on Boston at this price, without knowing if Kimbrel will be on the team. So, right now, I am going to pass on making a play on Boston.
The Play: Pass
New York Yankees
The co-favorites to win it all in 2019, are the Red Sox arch rivals, the New York Yankees. The Yankees had one glaring issue last season, starting pitching depth. Luis Severino looked like Randy Johnson for the first half of the season in the Bronx, making the All-Star team for the AL. But in the second half, he was awful, so it is hard to tell just how good he will be in 2019. The Bronx Bombers did go out and address their biggest need though when they brought in James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners.
Paxton struggled with injuries and consistency in Seattle, but when the guy is healthy and, on his game, he is one of the better starters in the American League and should fit in nicely at the top of the rotation with Severino and Tanaka. But when you look at the rest of the rotation, there are still some big question marks. Yeah, CC Sabathia and JA Happ were both strong last season, but both guys are getting old, Happ is thirty-six and CC is thirty-eight. So, I am not sure how many innings they can really be counted on for this year.
Picking up veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was a sneaky good move, as he will serve well as a stop gap until Didi Gregarious returns from Tommy John surgery and will give them a veteran bat off the bench once Didi is back in the fold.
Was picking up DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu is just two seasons removed from batting .348 and winning a batting title, and he could easily play himself into this starting lineup, giving them even more firepower than they already have.
The Yankees are loaded with young superstars in the making like Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit, Aaron Hicks, and Greg Byrd. And each of those guys should be a year older and more experienced this year. This team could be scary good this year, and in my estimation, they are the team to beat. They need Paxton to stay healthy, and they need to find a way to get 150+ innings from Sabathia and Happ, and they will likely need to add a starter to the rotation at some point, but for my money, this is the team that everyone else will be chasing all season long.
The third team up top, tied at just 6-1 odds, is the Houston Astros. As you can see, the American League is loaded, and Houston is hoping to get back to the World Series for the second time in three years. But when you look at this team, red flags are popping up everywhere. This team has been carried by elite starting pitching the last two years, and they lost a big chunk of that production with the loss of former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel and All-Star Charlie Morton.
The loss of Morton will sting especially hard as the guy struck out over 200 hitters last season enroot to a 15-3 record and a 3.13 ERA. Morton was a bit of a journeyman in his nine years in the National League with the Braves and Pirates, but the guy was nothing short of spectacular in his two years with Houston. They replaced Morton in the rotation with Wade Miley.
Houston will still have a great one-two punch with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole heading the rotation, but with guys like Colin McHugh and Brad Peacock expected to pitch major innings instead of Keuchel and Morton, this team will give up many more runs than they did in 2018.
Any team with an infield with Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman needs to be feared. And the AL West looks to be an absolute mess with Seattle, Texas, and Los Angeles all looking like they are in the beginning phases of multi-year rebuilds. So, this team is still going to win their division relatively easily. But at 6-1, we can find much better value further down the board.
The Play: Pass
Los Angeles Dodgers
At 7-1, we have our first team from the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers. And I’ll be honest here, I am pretty shocked to see the Boys in Blue as the NL favorites. They made a huge salary dump trade with the Cincinnati Reds, where they shipped off Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and Alex Wood for some prospects. All three of those guys had been key contributors for this Dodger team that has taken home the last two NL pennants. The thought at the time was that LA was clearing up space to make a play for Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado.
And they did offer Harper what would have been the most expensive per year contract of all-time, four years for $180 million, but Harper turned it down and went to Philly on a thirteen-year deal instead. And not only did they miss out on Machado, they lost him to their division rivals, the San Diego Padres. So, to call this offseason a disaster for LA, wouldn’t be all that far off.
Getting Corey Seager back will be huge for Los Angeles, as the kid was looking like an MVP candidate before missing nearly all of last season with an injury. But there are just too many question marks for me right now to see this team priced as the highest in the league. Chris Taylor is looking like a one-hit wonder as he saw his production fall off a cliff in 2018. After struggling to make the roster in Seattle for a couple of years, Taylor broke out with an All-Star campaign in 2017. But last year he saw dips in his batting average, home runs, RBIs, and he struck out 176 times.
Max Muncy was one of the best stories in the majors last year as the longtime minor leaguer smashed thirty-five home runs. Muncy had a career total of five home runs in 215 games with Oakland, so he is another candidate for major regression that I just can’t trust right now.
The NL West isn’t going to be a great division, but don’t be shocked if the Dodgers are much worse than anticipated. You can never count this team out of making splashy, in-season moves, but right now, this roster lacks what it needs to contend for a World Series title.
The Play: Pass
The last team to round out my list of favorites are the Philadelphia Phillies. No team had a better offseason than Philly did, as they made several moves to really bolster their roster. This team told everyone going into the offseason that they were all in on winning now, and they lived up to that claim. The headline-grabbing move here was signing outfielder Bryce Harper to the biggest contract in MLB history, thirteen years for $330 million. Harper can be a bit polarizing, but there is no doubt this kid is talented, and the former NL MVP should feel right at home, staying in the division he has played his entire career in, the NL East.
Had Philly only made the move to sign Harper, they would have been much improved. But they made several other impact moves.
- They traded for Jean Segura, who is emerging as one of the best hitting shortstops in the game. Segura has hit .300 or better in each of the last three seasons in both leagues while hitting double-digit home runs in all three years. This guy can flat out hit the baseball.
- And that is not all the Phillies did as they brought in All-Star catcher J.T Realmuto from the Miami Marlins. Realmuto was the most coveted catcher on the market this offseason, and he will be a major upgrade for the Phillies. Realmuto hit .277, more than respectable for a catcher, while hitting 21 homers and driving in seventy-four runs.
- Philly also added former NL MVP Andrew McCutchen to the mix. When adding a guy as talented as McCutchen is almost an afterthought to all the moves you made, you know your team got a lot better.
The Atlanta Braves are going to be good this year, and so are the Washington Nationals, so Philly is going to have their hands full in their division. But this is the best team in the National League right now on paper. You gotta remember, this team was in the division race well into September last season before fading hard late in the year. They added a ton of talent to what was already a decent team, and I see a ton of value on making a play on the Phillies.
In this last section, I will highlight a couple of teams that I think deserve a look despite the fact they are not one of the betting favorites.
The Baby Braves should be one year older and one year more experienced this season. Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr were the two youngest position players in the game last year, and both are on the cusp of superstardom. Throw in the always reliable Freddie Freeman, and hopefully a finally healthy Josh Donaldson, and all the sudden you have one of the best lineups in the National League. The only concern here is starting pitching health as Sean Newcomb, and Mike Foltynewicz are both banged up to the start the spring. Assuming the Braves get healthy, I like them, a lot. The division got a lot tougher with Philly adding several pieces, but on a raw talent perspective, the Braves are the team to beat in the National League.
Maybe you can sense a trend here in the National League. The league is wide open right now. In the American League, there is a major drop off after the top three or four teams. But in the NL, I can see half a dozen different teams that could emerge as favorites and represent the league in the World Series. The Brewers are intriguing in that they do all the little things right. They have solid starting pitching, an elite bullpen, and plenty of options to score runs.
They brought in a new catcher in former All-Star Yasmani Grandal, and they have a roster full of young arms that they can use out of the ‘pen or as openers to start games. The Rays invented the bullpen arm opener last season, but it was the Brewers that rode it all the way to game seven of the NLCS. It will be interesting to see if Milwaukee goes back to a more conventional rotation, or doubles down on the starter by committee strategy.
This last team is a true lottery ticket, but hear me out. The Padres made the big move to bring in Manny Machado as a free agent, that alone has made them a much better team. But they also have one of the best prospects in baseball at shortstop in Fernando Tatis Jr, who is expected to join the team in April. Oh, and yeah, they added veteran second basemen Ian Kinsler too. The completely revamped infield should make this a much-improved team. Are they ready to win it all in 2019? Probably not. But at 40-1, they are worth a speculative bet!
And here they are folks, my thoughts on the favorites to win it all in 2019, as well as a few longshots that are worth a look. As the regular season picture comes into better focus in the coming month as teams solidify their rosters in spring training, these lines are going to get sharper and sharper.
The time is now to make your bets, to take advantage of all the unknown questions that are going to pop up. Thanks for reading and good luck betting on baseball in 2019!