Very unusual for the first MLB wins totals to be released before February because it takes that long for the Hot Stove League to shake out, but one Vegas sportsbook chose not to wait.
Frankly, it makes little sense to post these so early with the two biggest fish on the free-agent market, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, still available. Both likely would add at least three wins to the MLB futures. Harper probably lands with either the Phillies, Dodgers or goes back to the Nationals, while Machado reportedly is down to the Phillies, Yankees or White Sox. It’s quite possible that neither 26-year-old signs until February as their agents wait for the other guy to set the market.
Only a few of the top free agents have signed. Lefty pitcher Patrick Corbin, formally of the Diamondbacks, signed with the Nationals, but they apparently still have room in their budget to bring Harper back. Indians third baseman Josh Donaldson took a one-year deal with Atlanta. DH Nelson Cruz left Seattle for Minnesota, outfielder Andrew McCutchen left the Yankees for the Phillies, and starting pitcher Charlie Morton left Houston for Tampa Bay.
We’ve still got difference-makers like former Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock, ex-Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal, former Astros Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, and Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel on the market – plus many, many others as teams are being much, much more frugal these days. It’s driving the prices down on every player not named Harper or Machado. So much so that Kimbrel might go back to Boston.
Despite losing Morton and probably Keuchel, and those two combined for 27 victories in 2018, the Astros top the wins list of 97.5 after winning 103 a season ago, second-best to Boston. While Houston might not be quite the same in its rotation, the lineup is still stacked and the team added for Indians All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley.
Boston won a franchise-record 108 games on the way to the World Series yet at 95.5 is below the Yankees. Boston is largely back intact in re-signing pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and super-utility guy and World Series hero Steve Pearce, although the bullpen is still a question depending on Kimbrel.
The Yankees’ rotation was a question mark entering the offseason, but they have re-signed CC Sabathia and J.A. Happ while trading for Mariners ace James Paxton. I frankly this this win projection is the sportsbooks’ belief that Machado will end up in pinstripes, but I could be wrong.
The Cubs and Brewers tied for the NL lead with 95 wins last season – well, technically, Milwaukee had 96 because it won a Game 163 against the Cubbies. Both have been very quiet so far regarding additions in the offseason, with the Brewers losing the likes of Mike Moustakas, Jonathan Schoop, Domingo Santana, Wade Miley and Gio Gonzalez.