The off-season is now underway, and there is already an opportunity for you to to place sucker bets on 2019.
Sports betting is all over now – especially thanks to the Supreme Court deciding (probably correctly) earlier this year that this is a matter for the states to handle for themselves. But try not to fall for it, Atlanta Braves fans.
Here we are… less than 40 hours into the off-season, and multiple Las Vegas books have already laid out the odds that each MLB team will win it all … in 2019.
In case you hadn’t noticed, no players have actually signed free agent deals, there have been no trades of particular significance, and … heck, we don’t even truly know if the ‘opt out’ players will be opting out or not (hint: probably not for at least the major ones). But let’s not let facts stop a good betting opportunity!
Of course, you could also argue that there’s no easier “low-hanging fruit” to comment derisively about in a blog post than those who rank teams way too early as well, and I’d accept that. However, we’ll have a couple of useful things to say along the way, I promise.
So here we go anyway… here’s one to have some good clean (and cheap) fun with:
So the Braves are 6:1 to win the entire National League and 12:1 for the World Series. That basically suggests that these guys believe there will be a marginal improvement of the team in 2018 – but that it’s a coin flip as to whether they advance out of the first round against… well, virtually the same final four as this season (sans the Rockies, who got no love at 15:1).
By this reckoning, the Phillies and Nationals… basically are treading water. The Mets are installed at 15:1, which in my mind is preying on the betting tendencies of New York sports fans.
If there’s a surprise on this chart for the NL, I’d personally suggest that the Reds and Marlins might need to be flipped… but then who cares at 50 or 100 to 1 odds?
These guys also seem to think that the AL doesn’t change much year-over-year, but the Astros and Red Sox are seen – again – as early favorites, with the Yankees again on their heels.
Most others need not apply.
This chart isn’t the only one published today for MLB future projecting – far from it – but most are similar. Keep in mind the main purpose of these is not necessarily to be accurate, but to maximize the monetary return expected from those who tend to bet.
But… free agents!
The folks at Bovada went deeper – they set up a series of betting odds for a few MLB free agents and where they would sign this off-season.
HINT: don’t take the “Machado to the Braves” bet… you’ll lose. But there’s another one that looks a bit more interesting – and literally “closer” to home…
Arrrr! So you want old Redbeard, eh?
Now here’s the rub on Craig Kimbrel. He’s just finished up a very productive contract of 5 years at $54 million (before performance bonuses) that he signed with Frank Wren and the Braves at Spring Training got started in 2014.
He will be 31 years old early on in the 2019 season, and has amassed 333 career saves – already 14th all time (which continues to make Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera look so impressive with their 601 and 652 saves). Since joining the majors, his numbers are head-and-shoulders above anyone else.
But that résumé is one that will command a significant paycheck – probably $15 million or more annually, which leads many to think that the braves should look elsewhere:
He’s probably not wrong. Adam Ottavino did earn a significant boost to $7 million in 2018 for the Rockies, and figured out Coors Field this season: 77.2 innings with a 2.43 ERA. That speaks volumes.
Both he and Kimbrel both walked and struck out hitters at roughly the same rates in 2018. Not great on the walk figured, but that’s overcome by the strikeouts.
Prose and Con-ditions
The downside? Ottavino will be 33 in about 3 more weeks. Still, I’d guess that 3 years and $30 million would not be out of the question for him… but that’s still a far cry better than Kimbrel, who could be looking at $15-to-$16 million for perhaps 5 years.
On top of that, Boston may very well choose to saddle Kimbrel with the kiss of death: a Qualifying Offer of $17.9 million. If that were to happen, then the Braves might be out on him all together.
I could see Atlanta sacrificing a draft pick on a QO free agent that’s a position player, but for a reliever? That just feels like a big reach.
The contract would be the big thing. While the Braves clearly have money to spend, there are other, more pressing priorities than dumping a significant chunk into the bullpen – never mind the expectation of a 4+ year commitment. So I have to believe that the stars are just not aligned for getting Kimbrel back to Braves Country.
Besides, I do think that the odds favor the Red Sox giving a QO to Kimbrel. In fact, I would say that you can bet on it.