It’s been a busy MLB offseason, with many big names already off the board. But there’s still a lot that has to shake loose in free agency before we have a better grasp on what this year’s season will look like.
The obvious winner to this point is the Dodgers, as they landed both Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto in free agency and also acquired Tyler Glasnow in a trade. Given the strength of their lineup, it’s no surprise that they are the current favorites (Tipico Sportsbook: +400) to win the World Series.
The Cardinals are another team that has been aggressive, as they look to rebound from a down 2023. Most importantly, they have overhauled their rotation, signing Sonny Gray, Lance Lynn and Kyle Gibson. They’re an interesting longshot to win the World Series (+3500) and National League (+1700), but more realistically could be a decent value to win the NL Central (+175).
Yankees and Cubbies
In the American League, the Yankees have stood out with their offseason moves. Acquiring Juan Soto is always a good start, but they’ve added additional reliable depth to their outfield in both Alex Verdugo and Trent Grisham. They’ve also just officially announced the signing of Marcus Stroman, who provides good depth to a rotation that features Gerrit Cole and a (hopefully healthy) Carlos Rodon.
In addition to Stroman, there have been rumors that the team is interested in a reunion with Jordan Montgomery, another highly coveted remaining pitcher on the market. They’re in a very tough AL East, so the betting value may not be there to win the division (+140), though they’ve still got decent odds to win both the World Series (+950) and American League (+430, currently the favorite).
In addition to Stroman, there are plenty of additional free agents still out there for teams to make the leap from pre-Spring Training World Series pretender to contender. The Cubs signed Shota Imanaga from Japan on Tuesday, finally making an addition after a quiet offseason since landing Craig Counsell as manager. They could be a big player in the market from here on.
Bellinger may have no choice but to return to the North Side, though given his success last season, that may not be such a bad thing.
First base remains a glaring hole in their lineup, with Rhys Hoskins and Brandon Belt both available and potential upgrades at the position. After fading late last season to miss the playoffs, the market currently suggests that the Cubs are a contender for the NL Central crown (+205), and those odds could get shorter if they make additional moves.
Speaking of the Cubs, Cody Bellinger enjoyed a resurgent season with the team in 2023 and is still looking to lock in a long-term deal. He reportedly has an offer from his former team, but there aren’t many other confirmed teams interested.
Bellinger may have no choice but to return to the North Side, though given his success last season, that may not be such a bad thing. He could serve as the DH, allowing young budding star Pete Crow-Armstrong to take over in center field.
Big Names Still Out There
Two other significant additions to lineups could be Matt Chapman and J.D. Martinez. There are a number of teams with a need at the hot corner, with the Cubs being among them. There will be plenty of competition for Chapman’s services however, as the Giants and Blue Jays (Chapman’s home since 2022) are also reportedly in the mix.
The latter two teams are also rumored to be in the mix for Martinez, per Jon Morosi of MLB Network. Given the number of teams that could add a DH to their lineup, Martinez’s market should be robust, so it’s unlikely those are his only two suitors.
A name with similar value to Martinez in terms of likely value and contract demands is Justin Turner. He had an excellent season with the Red Sox in 2022, but he lost a lot of defensive value by making a full-time shift from third base to instead focus on first base and DH.
That opens up his fit to a wide range of teams, once again including the Blue Jays — but the Mets, Mariners and Diamondbacks also reportedly have shown some level of interest.
In addition to the Cubs, another team to watch in the final month before Spring Training will be the Los Angeles Angels. They’re in an interesting position this offseason after losing Ohtani, while also still having an aging Mike Trout on their roster. If they’re going to give it a run one more time with Trout on their roster, they’ll have to make substantial upgrades — they’re currently +4000 to win the AL West.
Any of the aforementioned bats could be a fit, particularly Chapman or Martinez. However, they’re reportedly more zeroed in on the pitching market at this time. Luckily, they’ll have a range of options to choose from, including reigning NL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell. Others still on the market include the aforementioned Montgomery and Stroman.
When looking for other teams to join the pitching market, it makes sense to look to the losers of the Imanaga sweepstakes, highlighted by the Giants. San Francisco is an interesting team to look at from a value perspective. They’re now looking up at the Dodgers and Diamondbacks in the division, and the Padres are likely to remain competitive even if they aren’t true World Series contenders.
The Giants are another team where betting on a World Series victory could be a bit ambitious, but betting on winning the division (+950) could at least become a solid value choice if the team makes some anticipated upgrades to its roster.
We’ll end with the relief market, which mostly revolves around Josh Hader. Hader has been most consistently linked to the Rangers, which makes plenty of sense as the team struggled to find a consistent closer in 2023 and will need to improve its high-leverage relief to defend its current World Series title.
The market is expecting a step back, as they aren’t even considered favorites to win the AL West (+155) with the Astros (+135) ahead of them. If Texas lands Hader, or one of the other quality relief arms, they once again have a very solid roster.
Jordan Hicks is the best of the rest in terms of relief. Though he has only 32 career saves, he has the stuff of a closer (28 K% in 2023). He recently signed with the Giants.
Meet the Mets
We’ll end with a bit more on the Mets, who, like the Cardinals, had a very disappointing 2023. They haven’t been as aggressive as St. Louis in restocking the roster, but they have a lot of young talent (Brett Baty and Mark Vientos should both contribute in 2024) and some capable veterans in Pete Alonso, Starling Marte, and Francisco Lindor.
If they add one of the starters mentioned and grab a quality relief arm, their odds to win the NL East (+770) are likely to shrink considerably – though surpassing the Phillies and Braves will be a tough ask.
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