Our MLB handicapper previews the Cubs current futures MLB odds and gives a state of the team as it heads into Spring Training. Join us inside this revealing preview.
Sportsbooks must not think much of curses, because they have made the Chicago Cubs the betting favorites in futures markets for the 2016 season. Well, that really just means that the public is ready to plunk down on the Cubs breaking their losing streak, now doesn’t it? The books probably don’t care about the name next to the odds if the action is right. Still, if you want, you can take the Cubs at +800 right now to win the World Series and +360 to win the National League pennant over at 5Dimes.
Winner of 97 games last year, the Cubs had the highest win total of any 3rd place team in a division in the history of the MLB. That reality had them unable to sit on their laurels over free agency, as they were the biggest spenders over the winter in getting big names and committed more than $276 million in contracts. Some of their offseason acquisitions were:
Jason Heyward, RF – 8 years, $184 Million
Ben Zobrist, 2B – 4 years, $56 Million
John Lackey, SP – 2 years, $32 Million
Trevor Cahill, RP – 1 year, $4.25 Million
That certainly looks to be the behavior of a team that is trying to win right now, and with the Cardinals and Pirates still fielding very good teams in 2016, the Cubs risk playing in a wild card game that is essentially a coin toss if they don’t win the division. That one-game wild card format should scare the hell out of futures bettors in the National League this year, as there should be very dangerous teams in the second tier lurking.
Also what should scare Cubs futures bettors? The fact that the Cubs have won 97 or more games only twice in the last 70 years. In the past, I would not have been concerned with that win total. After all, the Yankees teams in the mid-90’s were winning games in the high 80’s rate and still coming home with championships. But the new wild card format changes the attractiveness of just getting in as a wild card. You likely need to win the division for much of the random noise to be removed from your chances of moving on in the playoffs.
The Projected Rotation
Jake Arrieta – Arrieta agreed to a one-year $10.7 million deal to avoid arbitration in early February, which will keep the ace of the staff around for one more year. Arrieta’s 2015 22-6 record, 1.77 ERA, and 236/48 K/BB ratio has him in line for a megadeal if he can come close to matching those numbers again this season.
Jon Lester – An inning’s eater when healthy, Lester will try to bounce back after a disappointing 11-12 season, although his 207/47 K/BB ratio has me believing that he will do it. A talent like Lester can make up for bullpen depth if he can go 7 or 8 innings every time out.
John Lackey – Lackey keeps going strong, pitching 218 innings for St. Louis last year and putting up a 2.77 ERA and 175/53 K/BB rate. Those numbers garnered him a 2-year, $32 million dollar contract from the Cubs. You could definitely have a worse #3 option.
Jason Hammel – Hammel isn’t flashy, but his 172/40 K/BB ratio and 1.16 WHIP in 2015 will be welcome as a back of the rotation starter. He didn’t last far into games in September last year, so he will need to be monitored for fatigue and injury risk.
Kyle Hendricks – The young Hendricks took a step forward in innings pitched last year, tallying 180 while putting up a 167/43 K/BB ratio and 1.16 WHIP. He will need to continue to hold this level of play for the Cubs to challenge for the division.
Key Lineup Contributors
In addition to the trio of Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, and Ben Zobrist having prime years, the following two players will have to contribute for the Cubs to have a chance at winning the pennant.
Kyle Schwarber – Schwarber belted 16 home runs in his rookie campaign for the Cubs, but did so in only 232 plate apperances. The Cubs are hoping he can build upon that short run of success, and those power numbers don’t include the 5 home runs that Schwarber swatted in the postseason. If he continues on the trajectory he is on, and Jason Heyward doesn’t fall on his face in Chicago blue, the Cubs outfield will be set for some time to come.
Kris Bryant – Like Schwarber, Bryant exploded on the scene in Chicago, although to just a tad bit more fanfare. If Bryant suffers from any kind of sophomore slump the Cubs would be in trouble. Bryant struck out 199 times last year, so it’s not out of the question for him to have some cold streaks at the wrong time.
While the Cubs may make the playoffs, the competition in the NL is too balanced for bettors to make a wager at this time on the pennant. We can afford to wait for a key injury, trading deadline deals, and sophomores to prove their worth before plunking down hard earned cash. At 8:1, the MLB odds won’t get much more expensive between now and August.