The sports calendar says January and, as a result, playoff football and pro and college basketball are king. However, Major League Baseball has reclaimed the headlines this week, but not for good reason.
On Monday, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred handed down one of the stiffest punishments in recent memory, whacking the Houston Astros for cheating. In case you missed it, during its World Series-winning season in 2017, Houston used an elaborate scheme of center field cameras, video replay televisions in the clubhouse and trash can banging in the dugout to relay stolen signs to Astros hitters. Manfred fined the team $5 million, took away their first and second round draft picks over the next two years and most importantly, suspended manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Lunhow for a full season.
Hinch and Lunhow were then fired by the team. Alex Cora, the Astros' bench coach in 2017, was the ringleader of the cheating scandal and then brought the scheme to Boston during the Red Sox' World Series winning 2018 season. Cora was fired by Boston earlier this week.
Carlos Beltran, now the manager of the Mets, has also been implicated in Manfred's report and remains in limbo.
So why is this important for bettors?
It may be the offseason, but spring training is right around the corner with pitchers and catchers reporting in exactly one month. Savvy bettors can take advantage of the sign-stealing fiasco by identifying World Series futures with value, along with win total opportunities and odds to win the division.
Thursday's action includes 5 NBA games, 13 NHL games and 62 College Basketball games. For an updated breakdown of sharp action across the marketplace be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Let's take a look at the current 2020 World Series odds at Circa
Yankees + 300
Dodgers + 550
Astros + 650
Braves + 1150
Twins + 1600
Phillies + 1800
Cubs, Nationals, Athletics + 2200
Mets, Rays + 2400
Cardinals, Reds + 2500
White Sox + 2800
Padres + 3000
Red Sox, Angels + 3500
Indians, Diamondbacks + 4000
Odds to win American League
Yankees + 135
Astros + 320
Twins + 750
Athletics + 1050
Rays + 1150
White Sox + 1350
Angels, Red Sox + 1700
Indians + 1950
Odds to win National League
Dodgers + 220
Braves + 475
Cubs + 925
Phillies + 775
Nationals + 950
Mets + 1050
Reds, Cardinals + 1100
Padres + 1300
Diamondbacks + 1700
Caesars has posted the Astros win total at 97, trailing only the Yankees (101) and Dodgers (99).
Director of Trading Jeff Davis recently told ESPN "I don't want to read too much into it. I would rather take under bets against a really good roster than overreact to something that might be nothing.... The players still have to play and it's a pretty damn good roster."
Teams to keep an eye on this season:
White Sox + 1350 to win AL, + 2800 to win World Series
Chicago finished 72-89 last season but could be bound for a vast improvement this season. The White Sox have had one of the most active offseasons, adding Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion and Dallas Keuchel in free agency. Chicago also traded for Nomar Mazara and re-signed Jose Abreu. Ace Lucas Giolito and young slugger Eloy Jimenez enter their second full season in the bigs while Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson look to take another step in their development.
Twins + 750 to win AL, + 1600 to win World Series
Minnesota won the AL Central last season with an impressive 101-61 record. While the White Sox are surely improved, the Indians have taken a step back after trading away Corey Kluber (and may deal away Francisco Lindor) while the Royals and Tigers remain awful. The Twins made a splash earlier this week by adding Josh Donaldson to an already potent lineup that set the single season home run record last year. Minnesota re-signed Jake Odorizzi and added Homer Bailey, Rich Hill, Sergio Romo to a staff that is led by emerging ace Jose Berrios.
Reds + 1100 to win National League, + 2500 to win World Series
Cincinnati, who missed the playoffs yet against last season after going 75-87, have made several key additions this offseason. The Red Legs inked Mike Moustakas and Japanese star outfield Shogo Akiyama and will also have stud prospect Aristides Aquino for his first full season. The Reds rotation is strong, led by Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and Trevor Bauer. Cincinnati also added Wade Miley to the rotation.
Athletics + 1050 to win American League, + 2200 to win World Series
Despite a low payroll, Billy Beane seems to put a good product on the field every single season. Oakland went 97-65 last season as a Wild Card team. The Athletics return the same lineup, led by young stud Matt Chapman, and will also get ace Sean Manaea for a full season. The staff also returns Frankie Montas from suspension along with two young flamethrowers in A.J. Puk and Jesus Luzardo.