Timing will be everything if one is inclined to bet on either the Boston Red Sox or the Chicago Cubs to win the 2017 World Series, due to the effect of big-market bandwagon fandom.
With Opening Day just more than a week away, the Cubs and Red Sox are each listed at +450 on the odds to win the World Series at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
There’s a chance the odds might not get more high-yield once the season starts. With their giant fanbases in the Midwest and New England, both will draw plenty of betting action and odds could fall closer to even money if either has a hot start in April. The teams were both also listed at +450 at the outset of spring training.
The Cubs, who are also +175 to win the National League Pennant, have a nucleus of young stars – 3B Kris Bryant, 2B Javier Baez, SS Addison Russell, 1B Anthony Rizzo – who might stay together for several seasons. The big variable, as always, is the health and performance of the pitching staff; the Cubs are looking for a bounce-back from new closer Wade Davis.
The Red Sox, after three years of regenerating since their 2013 World Series win, have added ace LHP Chris Sale to their rotation and have their own cohort of young offensive stars such as SS Xander Bogaerts and RF Mookie Betts.
Boston has to replace the run production of retired DH David Ortiz, but are a solid choice given that they are the AL East team which is most in win-now mode. The Toronto Blue Jays (+2200) might have missed their window, while the New York Yankees (+2500) are still a year away from their peak.
The upside of the Cubs and Red Sox being so highly touted is that it might inflate prices on other teams – and hey, postseason baseball is a wide-open game. The Cleveland Indians (+900), who were one win away last season and added RBI machine Edwin Encarnacion, still have an excellent shot at getting back to the postseason.
The National League’s other teams in major markets, the Los Angeles Dodgers (+1000), San Francisco Dodgers (+1100) and New York Mets (+1400), have all come down slightly in price since mid-February. All three certainly have the pitching to make a run in October, but perhaps not the balanced lineup.
One team whose odds has been surprisingly static since the winter meetings in October is the Houston Astros (+1400), who have one of the game’s most offensively prolific double-play combos with Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa. The Astros’ late-season stumbles of the past two years might be a fixed reference point for many baseball fans, but they have been following the model of slow-growing their prospects over a period of several years.