On the second full day of free agency, I was pleased to note that The Philadelphia Inquirer listed the odds of winning the 2011 World Series for all 30 major league baseball teams – that’s assuming, of course, the term “major league” actually applies to any team that plays 162 games in a fairly consistent uniform against other major league teams. In other words, odds for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals and Seattle Mariners were even included! The paper didn’t list a source for these odds, which they probably should have, since at the very top of the heap were the Philadelphia Phillies, 4-1 favorites nearly a year out from popping the champagne corks. It’s likely, however, that the sports editors did talk with Vegas Vic or Steve Wynn, or somebody “in the know.” After all, it’s not as though the Inquirer is some obscure internet blog, right?
What’s the point of setting odds at this juncture for next year’s World Series? Well, for Phillies fans who might actually bet on their team, there’s no point at all right now. There are 142 free agent players out there at this point, and about the only thing that can actually happen to the Phillies’ odds is that they will become longer. (Translation: When they lose star right fielder Jayson Werth to the Yankees, or Red Sox, or whomever, their odds will likely slip to 5-1 or 6-1, and the bettor would likely want to place his bet on them then, instead of this week.) The same is true of the Tampa Bay Rays, who are ranked fifth with the Texas Rangers at 12-1. Tampa is faced with the free agency of All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford and power-hitting first baseman Carlos Pena. It seems unlikely that, as a limited budget team, they will be able to re-sign both, and perhaps not even one of them will be in Florida next year.
Conservatively speaking, the loss or acquisition of any of the following “free agents” should move the odds of the team/s involved (in order of decreasing importance; some players have options to re-sign; some clubs do; and in some cases there is a mutual option): Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Adrian Beltre, Jose Reyes, Carl Pavano, Jon Garland, Aubrey Huff, Carlos Pena, Jim Thome, Jon Rauch, and Miguel Tejeda. Some of these players are arguably not top twelve types, but their circumstances put them there (e.g., Huff, San Francisco’s most consistent power hitter).
So, if one is a bettor, of the first ten teams (Philadelphia, the New York Yankees, Boston, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Texas, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Minnesota, and St. Louis), are there odds to jump on right now because the team is likely to sign a big free agent or two and make their odds shorter?
Of course. The Yankees, at 9-2, will likely sign somebody important and will probably open next season either even with the Phillies in the odds makers’ eyes, or possibly a bit in front of them. The Boston Red Sox (8-1) also seem ready to sign somebody important, or at least toss some sort of incentive into Beltre’s contract since he has a player’s option. The Atlanta Braves (15-1) are an interesting team as well; they have three players just under the very top tier of free agents whose retention or loss as a group could significantly affect their chances – Rick Ankiel, Troy Glaus and Omar Infante (the club has the option in the last case). Additionally, the Braves could lose Alex Gonzalez, Derrek Lee and Eric Hinske. Figure that three of those six will leave, and if you think the club will replace them with three better players (with, say, Crawford or Werth, Pena and Reyes), then place your bet on Atlanta now. Also, could the Bravos elbow their way into the competition for Lee?
On second thought, don’t touch Atlanta unless you’re a die-hard Braves fan – and who is? There are just too many moving parts. Do look for Atlanta’s odds to move, however.
Gelb, Matt. “Opening day for moneyball.” The Philadelphia Inquirer 3 November 2010: E1.”World Series Odds.” The Philadelphia Inquirer 3 November 2010: E5.