It’s easier to win the baseball offseason than it is to close the deal in October, but the Dodgers clinched the first part by finally finishing a trade to bring star outfielder Mookie Betts from Boston to Los Angeles. Now for the hard part.
The Yankees are still World Series favorites, according to William Hill sports books, and their path through the American League got easier with the Red Sox essentially resigned to a rebuilding year.
“I’m shocked by it,” Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill sports book director, said of the Betts deal. “It’s not the Red Sox we once knew. It’s going to be a whole new look.”
The Dodgers’ status as title contenders is nothing new, but their chances on paper have improved. When World Series odds for 2020 were opened Oct. 31, Houston was the 9-2 favorite, followed by the Yankees (5-1) and Dodgers (6-1).
The scandal-riddled Astros had fallen from the favorite’s role by Feb. 3, when the Yankees (3-1) were elevated to the top of the futures board, followed by the Dodgers (9-2) and Astros (8-1).
Betts’ move from the AL East to NL West meant a minor odds adjustment only because there was not much room left for movement. While the Yankees remain the 3-1 favorites, the Dodgers are now 7-2 with the Astros’ odds dipping to 17-2 (+850). Boston has plummeted from 12-1 at the end of October to 25-1 in early February to 40-1 this week.
With pitchers and catchers set to report for spring training, betting action indicates the public expects to see a two-horse race between the Dodgers and Yankees. Ed Salmons, Westgate SuperBook baseball oddsmaker, is more impressed by the horse with the blue saddle cloth.
“With Betts, the Dodgers are loaded,” Salmons said. “It’s scary to think how good the Dodgers could be this year.”
At William Hill, the Dodgers’ regular-season win total is up to 101 after opening at 98½. The Yankees’ win total opened at 101½ and is now 102½. The Astros posted the best record (107-55) in the major leagues last year, when the Dodgers won 106 games and the Yankees won 103.
Westgate posted a unique prop bet on Feb. 1: Will the Yankees set the MLB regular-season wins record with 117 or more? The “Yes” side is +800, with “No” at -1,400.
Salmons said he believes the Dodgers’ starting pitching is better than the Yankees’ rotation. The Red Sox are also sending veteran left-hander David Price to L.A., where he joins a staff with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Dustin May, Julio Urias and Tony Gonsolin. While critics might point to the poor postseason track records of Kershaw and Price, it’s Buehler who’s the ace.
Betts, in his prime at 27, was the AL MVP in 2018 when he batted .346 with 32 home runs. Last year, he hit .295 with 29 homers. Betts’ WAR for the last two years (17.0) ranks second in the majors to the 18.4 for the Angels’ Mike Trout.
“The Dodgers have plenty of pitching,” Salmons said. “If the Dodgers had a weakness, they had too many lefty hitters, so Betts balances their lineup, and he’s a Gold Glove right fielder.”
The top six hitters in the Dodgers’ lineup figure to be Betts, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock and Corey Seager — three right-handers and three lefties. It’s a balanced and scary offensive attack.
A persuasive argument can be made that the three best players in baseball are now playing in Los Angeles — the Angels’ Trout and the Dodgers’ Betts and Bellinger. There’s another candidate in New York, with the Yankees’ Aaron Judge also in the discussion.
William Hill has posted Judge, Trout and the Mets’ Pete Alonso as 10-1 favorites to win the majors’ home run title. (Alonso won it last year with 53.) Bellinger is listed next at 12-1, and Bogdanovich said the Yankees’ Giancarlo Stanton is drawing heavy betting action at 14-1.
Season win totals were opened before the Super Bowl for the first time in Las Vegas. The response has not disappointed bookmakers.
“In the win totals markets, baseball is the second-most popular sport next to football,” Salmons said. “There is a huge appetite for it.”
Bogdanovich said that aside from the Dodgers and Yankees, the most Over action has surfaced on the Angels (85½), Oakland A’s (89½), Cincinnati Reds (83) and Chicago White Sox (84½). Money has been showing Under the total on the Red Sox (85, down from 89) and San Francisco Giants (68½, down from 71).
“I’m surprised by how much money we have on it,” Bogdanovich said. “People are just betting and betting and betting.”
With Betts in blue, betting on the Dodgers is not expected to slow down anytime soon. But the time to buy low on L.A. has passed.