For me, baseball is like a complex bottle of red [wine], just when I think I have the game down to an exact science, Brett Philips plates the tying and game-winning runs in a pivotal World Series game on a play that involved a somersault between 3rd and home and 2 errors. It’s the uncertainty of the game that keeps dragging me back in.
If it’s the uncertainty of the game that continually brings me back, it’s my love for the game that makes me want to stay. Or, similarly, it’s my love for opulent red’s that keeps me churning in the wine scene. This love is the reason I know the word flabby to be a description of something/someone other than Dusty Baker. It’s also the driving force behind this article, because I simply can’t wait for the 2021 season;
HOUSTON ASTROS +3,000 (as of November 1st, per vegasinsider)
Speaking of Baker, the Astros are an intriguing pick for next season as they are coming off a season in which they struggled offensively throughout the majority of the year, yet came within a game of reaching the World Series. A big reservation any one would have in betting on them is that they stand to lose, arguably, their two best hitters of 2020 and, not only that, two thirds of their outfield. One of those issues will be partially addressed in-house with Yordan Alvarez, hopefully, being able to suit up in 2021. However, while he technically has played in the outfield before, he figures to be too big of a defensive liability to replace either George Springer or Michael Brantley defensively. Ten appearances in the outfield is a small sample size, but the Astros must be convinced of his capabilities (or a lack thereof) with how often they started him at DH in 2019. Even if you assume that Alvarez produces offensively at somewhere close to the level that he did in 2019, their offenses’ ceiling is set to lower.
1) They minimize turnover by re-signing Brantley to a one or two-year deal.
2) With one more spot to fill in the outfield, they sign Jackie Bradley Jr. and pass up on the more enticing Marcell Ozuna in order to narrowly avoid the luxury tax.
After their surprising postseason ride ended one game short of representing the American League in the World Series, on all accounts, I’d consider 2020 an extreme success for the Astros. While I, like most all baseball fans, lost respect for the Astros after the investigation into their franchise revealed they were cheaters, I’m impressed with how well they handled adversity. It appeared they gained a bit of their mojo back after dispatching the Minnesota Twins and Oakland Athletics. I expect them to better resemble the team we saw pre-scandal in 2021. Despite their revamped outfield and missing offensive production, a team could do worse than throwing out Justin Verlander on opening day. I also expect Jose Altuve to get his act together. All in all, I consider them a bargain at 30/1 odds to win the fall classic.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS +4,000 (as of November 1st, per vegasinsider)
Expiring contracts are also a hot button topic for the halo’s, only they want said contracts to expire. What I’m about to say is in no way, shape, or form meant to disparage the illustrious careers of Albert Pujols and Justin Upton, but they NEED to go. Mike Trout’s hall of fame numbers are going to waste as his front office continues to fail at producing him a championship caliber supporting cast. While there’s reason for optimism for the Angels, as Pujols comes off the books in 2022 and Upton in 2023, that fact doesn’t boost their chances of winning the World Series in 2021. A reason for optimism in 2021 is that they enter another year with a chance at getting a full season out of Shohei Ohtani. If they can get 140+ games out of him, Trout, and Anthony Rendon, they project to be a scary offensive team. Couple that with the fact that Dylan Bundy performed like an ace in 2020, posting a 3.29 ERA, there is certainly reason to be excited about the Angels.
1) Despite Bundy performing like an ace in 2020 and the emergence of Griffin Canning, Bundy is not an ace, and the Angels continue their head-scratching trend of instead opting to add a bat…
OR 2) They virtually stand pat, with their most notable addition being Taijuan Walker, this off-season as they’ve FINALLY reflected on their painstaking history of handing out bad contracts. They instead choose to spend in 2023 as their two worst contracts of recent memory will both be off the books.
It’s hard to trust in the 2010’s Angels’ front office as they’ve continually found ways to facilitate losing baseball despite having one future Hall-of-Famer locked up for his entire prime and adding another former MVP in the midst of his prime. Due to a lack of pitching talent, the Angels will do what they’ve done in all but one of the seasons since Trout debuted, miss the playoffs. 40/1 are steep odds, but I’m not convinced they are steep enough.
MINNESOTA TWINS +2,000 (as of November 1st, per vegasinsider)
In 2020, the Twins managed to extend their lengthy playoff losing streak to 18 games as they were swept by the aforementioned Astros in the ALDS. One of, if not the only, silver lining in that series was that Nelson Cruz produced runs, continuing to defy father time. This offseason, the Twins are left to ponder whether or not to re-sign Cruz. Normally it would be a non-starter to sign an injury prone 40-something year old, especially considering he is set to command something in the range of 12-16 million. But, if you watched the Twins hit last season, you probably would consider that a bargain as he carried the offense throughout a good portion of the season.
In terms of the rotation, the Twins head into the offseason looking quite alright. However, after letting Homer Bailey walk, and with Rich Hill likely also on his way-out, the Twins lack depth.
1) I look for them to sign a veteran to replace the Bailey/Hill platoon, one with playoff experience. Ivan Nova, for instance, fits that build as he enjoyed early success pitching for the Yankees.
2) I don’t see a way in which Cruz and the Twins don’t agree to a deal, especially considering multiple reports that suggested there is a mutual interest between the two parties.
Their offensive production in 2020 paled in comparison to the Bomba squad of ’19. That being said, Marwin Gonzalez won’t hit .211 again and Josh Donaldson will accrue more than 81 plate appearances. A full season out of Michael Pineda also provides for optimism and acts as a safety net for when Kenta Maeda regresses back towards the no. 2 starter that he is. If the Twins’ odds to win the World Series were any better, I’d pass them up instantly, but at 20/1, they’re a pick-em.