Since the 2017 World Series champion odds were first posted early in the winter, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have been on a collision course.
Boston and Chicago are each listed at +450 to win the World Series with the start of the Major League Baseball regular season less than one week away, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. It might be best to cop a wait-and-see attitude until early-season results lead to the board being adjusted, since neither storied franchise holds great value at this juncture.
The size of Red Sox’s and Cubs’ respective fanbases also means they will draw a lot of action from diehards.
The Red Sox opened at +600, but their price has come down now that prognosticators see them as a clear favorite in the American League. Boston added LHP Chris Sale to shore up an already strong pitching staff and has a terrific young lineup with the likes of SS Xander Bogaerts and RF Mookie Betts.
The Cubs, who are attempting to become the first National League team to repeat as World Series champions since Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine of the mid-1970s, opened at +375. The price has come up since Chicago, as so often happens to a World Series-winning team, saw key cogs such as CF Dexter Fowler and closer Aroldis Chapman go elsewhere.
The reality for the Cubs is that they are set for years with their young infielders, consisting of SS Addison Russell, 2B Javier Baez, 3B Kris Bryant and 1B Anthony Rizzo. Slugger Kyle Schwarber is also starting the season with a healthy knee after missing nearly all of 2016.
Outcomes in postseason baseball are highly randomized – there has been a new champion every fall since 2001. Several other teams are capable of getting into the playoffs and then getting hot at the right time. The Cleveland Indians (+900) were that team last season and should have the pitching to be in the hunt in the AL Central, which isn’t exactly a loaded division.
Over in the NL, the Washington Nationals (+1100) might be the team to back from a cluster of contenders that includes the Los Angeles Dodgers (+1000) and San Francisco Giants (+1100). True, the Nationals have never won a postseason series, but this is the only season RF Bryce Harper and CF Adam Eaton will be together, so the NL East team might have to act like next season will be too late.
The New York Mets (+1400) are promising, but the fact starters Matt Harvey and Steven Matz are both having arm issues raises a red flag.
The Houston Astros (+1400) might be the closest thing to a darkhorse. Houston has been nurturing prospects slowly for several years and is ready to peak at a time when their competition in the AL West is mostly projected to regress (Texas Rangers), rebuild (L.A. Angels, Oakland Athletics) or remain the same old-same old (Seattle Mariners).
Only two teams in the last 13 seasons – the 2013 Red Sox and 2014 Giants – have won the World Series immediately following a season when they had a losing record.