As the 2016 MLB season went into the books, we saw another legendary curse broken. The Chicago Cubs’ first World Series championship since 1908 lifted the curse of the billy goat. Not to worry, though, we still have the curse of Rocky Colavito haunting the Cleveland Indians.
The Tribe will have a very good opportunity to put that hex to rest in 2017. After representing the AL in the World Series last year, Cleveland made a big splash in free agency, adding slugger Edwin Encarnacion. Will that move be enough to combat the Red Sox and their lethal rotation that now also features Chris Sale?
Getting the answer will be a long, slow process (anyone else think 162 games is too many?) but a process which will start in mere days when pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training (at least, the ones who currently have contracts). With a number of extremely talented ball players still looking for a home, there is still an opportunity for your team to make a big acquisition. For their sake, I hope it’s power-hitting they are after and not relief pitching.
For now, let’s take an early look at the odds for the upcoming 162-game marathon, including early World Series futures, the big statistical props, and a few bold 2017 predictions for dessert.
World Series Odds
Chicago Cubs: 13/2
Boston Red Sox: 8/1
Los Angeles Dodgers: 9/1
Cleveland Indians: 11/1
Washington Nationals: 23/2
New York Mets: 14/1
Houston Astros: 16/1
San Francisco Giants: 18/1
Texas Rangers: 25/1
Toronto Blue Jays: 25/1
New York Yankees: 33/1
St. Louis Cardinals: 33/1
Detroit Tigers: 40/1
Seattle Mariners: 40/1
Baltimore Orioles: 50/1
Colorado Rockies: 50/1
Kansas City Royals: 60/1
Los Angeles Angels: 66/1
Pittsburgh Pirates: 66/1
Miami Marlins: 75/1
Tampa Bay Rays: 100/1
Philadelphia Phillies: 125/1
San Diego Padres: 200/1
Arizona Diamondbacks: 250/1
Cincinnati Reds: 250/1
Minnesota Twins: 400/1
Oakland Athletics: 400/1
Chicago White Sox: 450/1
Milwaukee Brewers: 450/1
Atlanta Braves: 500/1
The Cubs will be without two key pieces from their World Series-winning roster: Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman. (They also let Jason Hammel go, but the 34-year-old was the fifth starter in a loaded rotation.) To fill those voids, Chicago signed left fielder Jon Jay and reliever Koji Uehara, and acquired more relief pitching in Wade Davis via trade. Just so long as the Cubs’ rotation doesn’t take a major dive, they will be around come October.
If you paid no attention to baseball once it got cold out, you still probably heard someone celebrating/complaining about Boston’s acquisition of Chris Sale from the White Sox. With the addition, Boston’s rotation goes from solid to scary. Sale joins ace David Price, 2016 Cy Young-winner Rick Porcello, Steven Wright, and likely Drew Pomeranz in the starting rotation. The biggest concern for the Red Sox will be replacing the offensive production lost to David Ortiz’s retirement. (As you’ll see below, that might not be too worrisome.)
The Dodgers currently possess the best chance of knocking off the champs in the NL. After taking the Cubs to six games in the NLCS last year, the best thing LA could do in the offseason was retain its own. This is exactly what they did. The trio of Rich Hill, Justin Turner, and Kenley Jansen may have cost them a pretty penny, but they are all Dodgers going forward. LA will hope the addition of Logan Forsythe can help an offense that ranked 14th in runs scored.
Odds to be first manager fired
Bryan Price, Reds: 16/3
Paul Molitor, Twins: 11/2
Bob Melvin, Athletics: 6/1
Brad Ausmus, Tigers: 8/1
John Gibbons, Blue Jays: 10/1
Only one major league manager was fired during the 2016 season (Fredi Gonzalez, Braves), but three more were shown the door when the(ir) season concluded – Robin Ventura (White Sox), Chip Hale (Diamondbacks), and Walt Weiss (Rockies).
Bryan Price took over a Reds team that had just lost in the NL Wild Card game in 2013. In three seasons under Price, Cincinnati has a 42.8 winning-percentage. The NL Central may be tough, but that excuse won’t pass much longer.
It was rumored that Brad Ausmus was going to be fired following the 2015 season, when the Tigers went 74-87 to finish last in the AL Central. Ausmus returned and brought Detroit back to a respectable 86-75 in 2016. But if the Tigers don’t remain competitive, the winds of change will start whirling just as quickly as they quieted.
Gibbons needs to prove that he can manufacture runs now that Edwin Encarnacion and his parrot won’t be trotting around the bases in Toronto. If the Jays struggle out of the gate, Gibbons could be shown the door.
Although he falls in the FIELD, Buck Showalter’s decision to leave Zach Britton in the pen against the Jays in the Wild Card game will be remembered for a while in Baltimore.
Odds to lead the league in runs scored
Boston Red Sox: 4/1
Cleveland Indians: 5/1
Colorado Rockies: 11/2
St. Louis Cardinals: 8/1
Chicago Cubs: 9/1
As mentioned, the Bo-Sox lost David Ortiz and his 127 RBIs. While off-season acquisition Mitch Moreland is no “Big Papi,” adding him to a lineup that also features Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and Jackie Bradley Jr. keeps Boston at the top of the odds. There’s power throughout the order and someone will drive-in those runs for the Red Sox.
Cleveland was 101 runs behind the league-leading Red Sox last year, but they landed one of the best power hitters in the majors in free agency. Encarnacion’s bat makes the Indians’ lineup a dangerous one.
Blame it on the thin air or just accept the fact that the Rockies have a handful of players who can hammer the ball. The Rockies scored the second-most runs last season and return all their big sluggers, plus Ian Desmond.
Odds to lead the league in runs allowed (in a good way)
Chicago Cubs: 7/2
Washington Nationals: 6/1
Boston Red Sox: 19/3
New York Mets: 13/2
Los Angeles Dodgers: 8/1
Joe Maddon certainly knows how to get the most out of his pitchers. Two Cubs starters were named finalists for the NL Cy Young, and neither was named Jake Arrieta. Not to mention, their bullpen is loaded with reliable arms.
The Nationals’ and Mets’ chances revolve around the health of their big arms. For the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg only started 24 games last year and has a history of injuries. For the Mets, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Jacob deGrom only combined for 63 starts last season. Neither team can top the Cubs without its full arsenal.
Biggest jump in wins: Los Angeles Angels (74)
It would be easy for me to take the Twins who had the worst record in the majors, winning nine fewer games than the next worst team. But I refuse to take the easy route. While the Twins should at least add seven wins to their 59 from last season, I’ll take a bigger cut and say the Angels.
Mike Trout is the best player in baseball, but after him and Albert Pujols, no one on the Angels did anything at the plate last year. Five players in their lineup recorded fewer than 45 RBIs, and Yunel Escobar is the only player other than Trout to hit better than .281. To remedy, LA brought in outfielders Cameron Maybin and Ben Revere. The latter just had his worst season in the bigs, but has proven he can hit for a solid average in the past. Both possess a lot of speed and can get on-base in front of Trout and Pujols. The Angels will also hope newly acquired Luis Valbuena can provide some much-needed power at the bottom of their lineup.
There are still a lot of questions on the mound, but the return of Garrett Richards will be a big boost. Matt Shoemaker is a reliable starter, while Ricky Nolasco and Tyler Skaggs showed a lot of promise last season. Even if they only get average pitching, the Angels will enjoy a much better season. Mike Trout is just too good.
Biggest drop-off in wins: Chicago White Sox (78)
Again, I could take the safe pick and say the Cubs will not win 103 games again this year. However, I choose to find the team that will really tank, not just regress to 97 wins. My search ends at the Chicago White Sox.
In 2016, Chicago was carried to 78 wins by dual aces Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, and Todd Frazier’s 40 bombs. Now Sale’s wearing a Red Sox jersey (which he hopefully finds more trendy) and there are rumors the team is looking to trade closer David Robertson. The White Sox appear to be ready for a rebuild and may start trading off more assets once the season gets started.
Even if they don’t trade for the future, I project Chicago to fall off in a big way, and not just because Sale is gone. They lack speed in the corners of their outfield and have not made any additions to make me believe their 20th-ranked offense from last year will get any better. It’s not feasible to rely on Frazier to go deep another 40 times this year.
Biggest impact from a new edition: Edwin Encarnacion
In spite of making it to the World Series last year, the Indians largely had to rely on manufacturing their runs. While Carlos Santana and Mike Napoli (no longer with team) each hit 34 home runs, only one other player hit more than 15. With all of Cleveland’s talented contact hitters, a power bat who is also efficient at the plate will be huge. This is exactly what they got in Encarnacion.
Say what you will about the hitter’s park Edwin played in for the last seven seasons, as it certainly is advantageous, but keep in mind the slugger hit the majority of his home runs on the road last season. Matching his .286 batting average from last season will be difficult, but he will remain among the league-leaders in RBIs. There is no question the 1B/DH is an upgrade over Mike Napoli. In fact, the addition may be enough to end the curse of Rocky Colavito.
Photo Credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].