Cubs top World Series futures, but early favorites seldom win

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Neither their price nor recent history makes the Chicago Cubs an enticing play on the latest 2017 World Series champion futures board.

As teams begin spring training in Arizona and Florida, the defending champion Cubs are the +450 favorite on the odds to win the World Series this fall, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Boston Red Sox are close behind at +500, which is also on the low side compared to the prices for other recent World Series-winning champions in mid-February.

It is true that the 2016 Cubs, with their 20-something core led by 3B Kris Bryant, 1B Anthony Rizzo and SS Addison Russell, practically went wire-to-wire as the favorite. The only time they were not at the time was when they were a loss from elimination against the Cleveland Indians in the World Series.

The Cubs, however, were listed at +750 at the outset of spring training last season, and a price in that range would make the current version a much more worthwhile play.

All of the prior six champions had a price ranging from +1600 (the 2015 Kansas City Royals) to +3000 (2013 Boston Red Sox) in the middle of winter. The Cubs’ price is the lowest seen at this point since 2010, when the New York Yankees were at +300. Those Yankees lost in the ALCS to the Texas Rangers, who in turn were defeated by the San Francisco Giants — a one-time +2500 preseason underdog.

If that is any rule of thumb, then the value is in the middle of the board. Considering that they each pushed the Cubs during the playoffs, the San Francisco Giants (+1200) and Los Angeles Dodgers (+1400) are both underrated at this point.

A fast start from the Giants and their starting pitching trio of LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Johnny Cueto and RHP Jeff Samardzija would cause their odds to move due to their status as a three-time World Series-winning team. The Dodgers also stack up well, considering that they won 91 games last season even though franchise LHP Clayton Kershaw missed about 10 starts.

With their trade for LHP Chris Sale and the Killer B’s on the field — RF Mookie Betts, SS Xander Bogaerts and CF Jackie Bradley Jr. — the Red Sox deserve the preseason hype. Cleveland (+800) is the third AL champion in a row, after the 2014-15 Kansas City Royals, to win a pennant on pitching and situational hitting, and that can have a shelf life.

One AL team that profiles similarly is the Houston Astros (+1400), who have spent years amassing young talent. With an excellent infield of 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Alex Bregman and SS Carlos Correa, the Astros’ have a fairly wide window to become the first Texas team to win it all.

No team has won back-to-back World Series since the 1998-2000 New York Yankees three-peated. The MLB regular season begins on April 2.