MLB Handicapping: Major Odds Shifts for Futures
by Trevor Whenham - 2/17/2015
We are now just hours away from the real start of baseball for another year - pitchers and catchers start to report on Feb. 18, and the first position players are due on Feb. 23. At this time every year I start to get really itchy for things to get underway. Spring training is the only preseason in sports that matters, and then the long, glorious season will be underway in no time.
The challenge, though, is to find ways to pass time until things get rolling. One great way to do so is by looking at futures odds. In particular, when we see a big shift from when the futures odds were first posted right after the season ended until now we know that expectations have changed significantly and that the public is paying a lot of attention. Here are four of the biggest shifts we have seen this year (odds to win the World Series are from Bovada):
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San Diego Padres (50/1 on Oct. 28 to 14/1 now): A.J. Preller is my new hero. He took over as GM of the Padres in August after previously being assistant GM in Texas. It has been only six months, but he has already made more deals than many GMs make in their entire careers. He just hasn't been making deals for the sake of the action, either -- he has given this team a real shot at being dramatically improved. He has made seven trades, signed four bigger-name free agents, and added a ton of names on minor league deals as well. The highlights include additions of guys like James Shields, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and more. He has overhauled his rotation, created a whole new outfield, and generally changed everything about this team from the composition to the attitude and especially the expectations. Back in October most people expected pretty much what they always expect from this team - not very much. Now those expectations are through the roof. The NL West and beyond - is getting talked about. It reminds me of the Blue Jays a couple of years ago when they went crazy and acquired pretty much everyone. Here's hoping that things go better for the Padres - and for those that bet on them on the futures market - than it did for the Jays and their backers.
Boston Red Sox (25/1 to 10/1): The Red Sox know how to go from the cellar to the penthouse, and they have aggressively tried to do so again. They made the big splashes by shelling out millions for Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. I'm less optimistic about both signings than many. They also have looked to Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley to improve a rotation that really, really needed improving. They may not be done yet, either, as rumors continue to flow that they are trying to trade for an ace like Cole Hamels. The AL East is open this year, so Boston could be well-positioned. The odds are lower than they should be, but that is pretty much assumed for a team as public as this one is.
Chicago Cubs (40/1 to 10/1): The Cubs were very active, but the biggest acquisition will never play in a game. When Joe Maddon signed on as manager they immediately got the boost they have long lacked. Add in the big prize of the pitching field when they landed Jon Lester, and some nice additions in Miguel Montero, David Ross and Dexter Fowler, and you have a lineup that is more poised to win than they have been in far too long in Wrigley. The rebuild should be about complete now, but it is hard to get too excited until this cursed team shows that they are at least somewhat capable of achieving their potential. Like Boston, rabid fans have driven all of the value out of these future odds, though, so you probably want to just hope for the best for them - or not - on the sidelines.
Chicago White Sox (40/1 to 16/1): The White Sox couldn't let their cross-town rivals have all of the fun. This team has been lousy for too long after their 2005 World Series and 2008 division title. They finally decided to do something about it. When they really announced their intention to change was when they traded for Jeff Samardzija from Oakland. It's not that they got him - though he will help a lot - but that they managed to get him for essentially nothing. They built a lot of momentum and spent heavily on free agents. It wasn't just names, though - they improved by adding guys like Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera. Back in October they were essentially irrelevant in the AL Central race yet again. Now, though, with a strong offseason from them, a poor one from Detroit (they jumped from 8/1 to 16/1), a truly horrible one in Kansas City (14/1 to 28/1), as well as continued incompetence in Cleveland and Minnesota, the division is there for the taking.
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