Future bets are all about value and leverage. If a team legitimately has a 10/1 chance to win a title, and you get them at 20/1, it allows the handicapper to bet individual games, postseason series, and other future wagers with a tactical advantage.
Had you bet the Cavaliers at a high number either before they signed LeBron James last off-season, or when the team was struggling during the first six weeks of the season, you very well may have ended up making money on the NBA Finals by hedging your wager and placing cash on the Golden State Warriors.
The Major League Baseball season is about half way finished. Between now and August, major trades will take place altering the odds on some key contenders. Furthermore, teams that have over or under performed to this point are likely to revert to what we expect.
So what teams offer value now?
Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays began the year at 35/1 to win the World Series and are now 27/1. Value was there, but it was purely speculative before the season began. At this point, Toronto has proven to be the best offensive team in baseball by a wide margin. There is no reason to believe proven hitters like Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion are going to slow down too much.
While Toronto’s team ERA ranks in the bottom-third in the majors, help is on the way. Prospect Matt Boyd was promoted to the big leagues last week, and Toronto is among the most likely candidates to trade for pitching. While they may not get Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, a stopper like Tyler Clippard or Jonathan Papelbon is likely and would do wonders for a bullpen that has struggled for much of the year. Toronto has the best run differential in the American League and should be considered a top contender.
Like Toronto, Baltimore is part of the four-team at the top of the AL East. Also like the Jays, the Orioles record should be better than it is and is likely to improve. The Os opened the year at 25/1 and are now 22/1 to win it all. They rank fifth among all teams in hitting and 12th in pitching. They’ve bided their time with youngster Kevin Gausman and he should be able to pitch the entire second half without an innings limit during the stretch run. Adam Jones is back after missing time due to injury. The team is playing well, and making a deal for a reliever, like they did last season with Andrew Miller is very possible. But even that may not be necessary as the pen has been lights out all season.
By nearly any metric you use, the Pirates are as good or better than the rest of the National League – save for the Cardinals. The Bucs odds have mirrored Baltimore’s: they opened at 25/1 and are now 22/1. Pittsburgh is winning primarily with elite pitching; outside of St. Louis, they are the only team in baseball with an ERA under 3.00. While the Bucs’ hitting is inconsistent, they have star power in Andrew McCutchen.
To the organization’s credit, they have resisted trading future pieces to help playoff bids the last two years. Because of that, their farm system is stocked, and acquiring a key bat at the deadline, like Ben Zobrist or Carlos Gomez, is likely.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)