How great is it that we officially get to talk about baseball again?
Now that the lockout is over, spring training games are underway, and key free agents are starting to find new homes, it is time to start thinking about some MLB futures. Today, we are going to give out the winners for each division, and our best bet for the league winners.
A lot has happened since the lockout ended, and the season is under a month away. You do not have a lot of time to place some futures, so I implore everyone to keep an eye on the futures market and maximize value.
Anyway, here are the best bets for the division winners, and league winners this season.
*Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
AL East: Toronto Blue Jays (+200)
The AL East is loaded right now, and Boston signing Trevor Story makes an already scary infield even scarier. But the Red Sox desperately need help in their rotation and bullpen.
Tampa Bay did not make any real splashes this offseason, other than extending Wander Franco for a criminally low number and the Yankees struck out on every single top free-agent target ... again.
I will not make fun of Baltimore because that would just be picking on an easy target, but if I were going to pick on the Orioles, I would call them uninteresting, terrible, and other than the existence of Adley Rutschman, they do not have much going on this season.
Toronto, on the other hand, has the best lineup, the best rotation, and while they do not have a better bullpen than Tampa Bay's, they are not too far off. Losing Marcus Semien to the Rangers is not ideal, but with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, and now Matt Chapman, nobody has a better lineup or rotation than the Jays.
AL Central: Chicago White Sox (-185)
Let me start by saying that I refuse to bet on futures that are not plus-value. I will not personally bet on any future that isn't going to net me over one unit. However, the White Sox are so far ahead of everyone in the Central, that I legit do not think the Royals, Guardians, Twins, or Tigers are going to compete.
Although the Tigers flashed potential last season and signed a big name in Javier Baez, and the Twins surprisingly picked up Carlos Correa in free agency, the White Sox are the clear winner here.
The back half of the White Sox bullpen with Liam Hendriks and Craig Kimbrell is as dominant as it comes, and the starting rotation features a lot of upside. If you take a look at this lineup, there is a lot of youth and a lot of promise. Getting Eloy Jimenez and Luis Roberts back for the full season will certainly help that outfield's numbers at the plate.
The odds are not great, but the Tigers and Twins are not true threats, and the Guardians and Royals are just not ready to compete right now.
AL West: Houston Astros (-160)
Somehow, someway, the Astros continue to win even after the cheating scandal. Their era of running the American League is starting to wind down, with Correa heading to Minnesota and Zack Greinke returning to Kansas City, but the lineup is still stacked, and Justin Verlander is said to be ahead of schedule coming off Tommy John.
While the gap has certainly decreased between the Astros and the next wave of teams in the West, Seattle was not able to snag any top free agents, and the Angels just absolutely refuse to address their pitching situation. Sure, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani may be the best duo of players in the league, but both of them need to stay healthy, and I do not trust either to do that.
The Rangers went big this offseason signing Semien and Corey Seager to massive deals, but there are still so many holes on this team that they should compete with Oakland for the worst record in the division.
American League Winner: Chicago White Sox (+500)
You have to think that the White Sox are going to go all-in with this roster. Whether that be at the trade deadline with a big name like last season with Kimbrell, or bringing up all their young talent, I think the White Sox have something special here.
To be honest, I do not trust anyone in the American League. The East is loaded, but every team is flawed, and the Central and West are one-man races. I am playing the odds and searching for the best value, and with that lethal bullpen, and up-and-down solid contribution in the lineup, the White Sox might have the best pound-for-pound team in the American League.
NL East: New York Mets (+140)
The defending World Series champions lost their heart and soul, and although Atlanta replaced Freddie Freeman with Matt Olson, there is no chance that the Braves can recover from the loss of Freeman, and even World Series MVP Jorge Soler.
The Phillies were always a threat to snag someone like Kris Bryant, or any other top-tier free agent, but they let the market come to them, and they scooped up Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber to beef up that offense. Although the Phillies have a strong lineup headlined by MVP Bryce Harper, the Mets got much better by adding Max Scherzer to be their second starter.
Yes, Max Scherzer, who is arguably the best pitcher in my lifetime, who is still at the top of his game, is going to be second in the rotation behind Jacob deGrom. I think Francisco Lindor has a big bounce-back season, and the additions of Starling Marte and Mark Canha help fill a few holes in the offense.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals (+195)
Let's just get this out of the way, the Pirates, Reds, and Cubs are going to be really bad.
The Central is a two-man race once again with last season's winner, the Milwaukee Brewers as slight favorites. St. Louis did not necessarily get better this offseason, but the Brewers did not do enough for me to feel comfortable with that lineup. Milwaukee brought in Andrew McCutchen, which is a big nothing-burger, and who knows if Christian Yelich is going to wake up from his long slump. If you can find a division that is clearly going to be between two teams, you take the team that has plus-value every single time.
At no point should you bet a future and not be up more money than what you wagered. Even if you think the Brewers are going to win the division, it just is not worth it.
NL West: Los Angles Dodgers (-185)
Adding Freddie Freeman to this lineup is unfair, rude, and should be illegal. But alas, here we are, with Freeman in a Dodgers uniform.
Honestly, even the loss of Scherzer in the rotation does not matter. From top-to-bottom, the Dodgers are the class of the MLB, and if you have not taken a flyer on their World Series odds (+550), you should really think about it sooner rather than later.
League Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers (+240)
The Dodgers are just the best team in baseball, there is no way around it. If you can get any future with plus-value, just take it and do not think about it. The National League is not very strong, and while the West is going to be tough with the Padres and Giants, the addition of Freeman just has to make you laugh.
They are building a Death Star in Los Angles, except this time, there will not be a little hole in the trenches that can blow it up.
Photo: Getty Images