Teams Near Cutoff Bubble Worth Fading as MLB Picks

Matthew Jordan

Friday, September 19, 2014 2:19 PM GMT

You don't think there's tanking in baseball? Frankly, there is probably more reason to give up at the end of a season for bad teams than in any other sport. Here I will identify which clubs are going to fall into that category in MLB betting.

In the NHL and NBA there's not a great incentive to tank because you are entered in a draft lottery. OK, you have a better chance at winning the lottery but it usually doesn't work out in the NBA. In baseball, if you have the worst record in the majors you get the No. 1 pick. And now, the higher your draft pick, the more of a bonus pool you have to pay out to all draft picks. It's why you see some guys taken perhaps earlier than expected in Round 1 because they are willing to accept less than their draft slot would normally get. That way, teams can roll the dice in later rounds on guys who say they are committed to attending college but could be swayed with a big signing bonus.

Another reason for teams to take a dive: free agency. Teams that finish with one of the 10 worst records in the majors don't have to give up their first-round pick in the draft if signing a top-tier free agent. That would be the case this winter for guys like Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields, just to name three pitchers. Any of the 10 worst clubs could ink one of that trio and only give up a second-round pick.

These are the teams near the cutoff bubble and worth betting against the rest of the way (with records as of Wednesday).

 

No. 12 New York Mets (73-79)
The Mets have been really cheap for years as their owners have been in some financial hot water, but the team seems poised to finally spend this winter. And it could be a good club next year with the right additions because New York has a ton of good young pitching, led by post-Tommy John surgery Matt Harvey. Finishing among the 10 worst records could be huge if the Mets really will break out the wallet. Remaining schedule as of Friday: three at Atlanta, three at Washington, three vs. Houston. Only the Nationals will have something to play for, which would be the NL's top seed.

 

No. 11 San Diego Padres (70-80)
The Padres have never proven they will spend big money on the free-agent market, but think of how good Scherzer or Lester would be in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. San Diego has solid pitching, but it needs to add offense this offseason. Half the roster remains out injured. Remaining schedule as of Friday: three vs. Giants, three vs. Rockies, four at Giants. That's seven games against a team that remains very motivated to win in the Giants.

 

No. 10 Cincinnati Reds (71-81)
Clearly the Reds are one of the big disappointments in the National League this season. Injuries certainly hurt. Joey Votto remains out and while he's trying to get back, what's the point? Shoot, why even let ace Johnny Cueto pitch again? The Reds probably will so he has a shot at 20 wins. Remaining schedule as of Friday: three at St. Louis, three vs. Milwaukee, three vs. Pittsburgh. Now that's a schedule built for tanking because all three NL Central foes are in playoff contention and jockeying for position.

 

No. 9 Chicago White Sox (69-82)
If the White Sox didn't have Chris Sale, they'd probably have another half-dozen losses at least. If they hadn't signed Jose Abreu this offseason, they might have the worst record in the majors. But it's because of those two that I believe the Sox absolutely want to finish with one of the 10 worst records. This team doesn't have huge payroll obligations next season and I believe is ready to spend. The Pale Hose could contend in 2015 with the right guy added to Sale and Abreu. Remaining schedule as of Friday: three at Tampa Bay, three at Detroit, four vs. Kansas City. The Rays have nothing to play for, but the Tigers and Royals certainly do.

 

No. 8 Philadelphia Phillies (69-82)
This is the most broken roster in the majors if you ask me, with veterans on bloated contracts that no other team would take (Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Papelbon to  name three). But it's still a big-market team and the Phillies don't want to rebuild but reload. A rebuild means fickle Philly fans stay away. Thus not giving up a first-round pick for a top free agent likely is a plan of action. Remaining schedule as of Friday: three at Oakland, three at Miami, three vs. Atlanta. Before placing your MLB picks on these games, understand that only the A's still care.

 

No. 7 Chicago Cubs (67-84 -- with Houston)
I would argue no team has more reason to finish among the 10 worst than the Cubs. They have started bringing their kids up, and team president Theo Epstein thinks the winning can start in 2015. Every rumor you hear has the Cubs going after Lester, whom Epstein obviously knows well from his Red Sox days. This will be the last season the Cubs are in this category for a while. The plan is finally coming to fruition.  Remaining schedule as of Thursday (because Cubs start a series Thursday, not Friday): four vs. LA Dodgers, three vs. St. Louis, three at Milwaukee. Jackpot! This is the perfect tanking schedule.