Major League Baseball’s All-Star break provides a good opportunity to look at where odds stand on various futures bets and where the best value for them lies.
The goal here is not to try to forecast the most likely teams to win the World Series or which players should collect the top awards. In most cases — with the exception of the Atlanta Braves winning the NL East or Shohei Ohtani winning the AL MVP barring injury — your guess is as good as ours.
Instead, we’ve done the line shopping for those who think it’s worth leaning a certain way at this point and tying up some money for the next several months. We’ve examined the futures odds in key market categories among six of the online operators — FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars Sportsbook, BetRivers, and PointsBet — most likely to be found in legal U.S. sports betting states.
In many cases, as would be expected, there’s relative consistency among them. The odds on Framber Valdez as the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award ranges only from a best return of +215 with BetRivers to +190 with Caesars, with the four others all at +200. While that’s significant variance to a big-betting professional gambler, and there’s no reason to use anyone but BetRivers if you can access it, the difference in potential reward is quite modest for a $20 recreational bettor.
However, there are also cases where one site’s odds are far out of line from the rest, for whatever reason. Is it possible that an analyst creating the odds for Brand X is much savvier than all of his competitors, and he’s right and they’re all wrong? Of course, but in scraping the numbers, we angle to look for anyone sharply deviating from the consensus and make them pay for it — if they’re wrong.
Herewith, then, some of the best values available to a baseball bettor wanting to be in action for every game the remainder of the season from a single bet.
Mookie Betts, NL MVP (+900), BetRivers
Even if he pretty much whiffed in Monday night’s Home Run Derby, this bet on Betts is worth considering despite the incredible Ronald Acuna’s status as odds-on favorite to win the award (best available price: -330 from FanDuel or DraftKings).
Very smart of Mookie Betts to do the Home Run Derby but not get too deep and mess up his swing!
He'll save some home runs for the second half of the year, where he's on pace for a career-high!
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) July 11, 2023
Looking at the sportsbooks’ numbers, the recommendation is pretty simple. All of the other sites list Betts as the second favorite for the award, at odds ranging from +550 to +750. BetRivers deviates by a wide margin from them (though actually less so than the +1500 it had listed on Monday).
The 30-year-old Betts won the AL MVP in 2018 when he hit .346 with Boston. His batting average of .276 this year with the Dodgers is nowhere near that, but all of his other numbers — 26 homers, 72 runs, 62 RBIs — are MVP caliber, on top of the outstanding defense he provides in both the outfield and infield.
Now, if the Braves’ Acuna keeps up his incredible season that includes a .331 average and 41 steals, no one is going to take the award away from him. But keep in mind he has only played at least 120 games in a season once in his first five years. If he is sidelined, the race could be between Betts and his teammate Freddie Freeman, who is currently third in odds (+1200 at most sites).
Texas Rangers, AL West title (+135), DraftKings
Yes, the Rangers (52-39) have been in a funk for the past month since peaking at 20 games above .500, but the fact remains that they lead their division at the All-Star break for the first time in seven years, two games ahead of the Houston Astros. They are among the MLB leaders in most offensive categories, including a league-best .274 batting average.
All of these sportsbooks but one have the Rangers favored to remain ahead of the Astros by season’s end. Only DraftKings offers a plus price to bet on Texas, and it’s surprisingly substantial at +135, considering the Astros have their own issues to deal with in trying to repeat as MLB champions. The price on the Rangers is a far-more-optimistic-about-Texas -129 at BetRivers and -120 at Caesars.
Something else intriguing to consider as a corollary: Caesars’ price of +120 on Houston to win the division is far more advantageous to bettors than what others offer. An Astros backer would be wise to make use of that sportsbook, and any arbitragers willing to risk that the Seattle Mariners or Los Angeles Angels won’t rally from six and seven games back in the division standings, respectively, could bet both Texas at +135 and Houston at +120 and earn a tidy profit either way.
Tampa Bay Rays, World Series winner (+600), DraftKings
Until overtaken in season records just recently by the Atlanta Braves, the Rays were hands-down the best team in baseball all along. Their 58-35 record remains outstanding, however, keeping them two games ahead of Baltimore in the fiercely competitive AL East.
It’s always a bit of a crap shoot picking a World Series winner, but what stands out here is all five other books make the Rays the second favorite behind the Braves (best return: +375 at BetMGM) to bring Tampa/St. Pete its first MLB champion. DraftKings is again the outlier.
The best reward for betting Tampa from any of the other sites is +500 from Caesars and PointsBet. Only DraftKings slides the Los Angeles Dodgers ahead, making their odds +550 compared to the Rays’ +600.
Fundamental baseball fans without a hometown team to support as a contender should be expected to root for the Rays as just a savvy, underdog franchise that knows how to win without profligate spending. Fundamental baseball bettors should be expected to use the best available odds in hoping that all leads to success in October.
Spencer Strider, NL CY Young Award (+450), Caesars
Zac Gallen is the current favorite to win this award (best return: +250 at FanDuel), but the current favorite in terms of value would have to be this option from Caesars.
The various sites have mixed opinions on whether second-year phenom Strider or future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Clayton Kershaw should be ranked second in terms of odds. But among Caesars’ five competitors, only BetMGM goes even as high as +400 for Strider, with the others +350 or less.
Caesars actually made an adjustment this week, reducing Strider from the still-more-deviating +575 it had offered on Monday. This is for an 11-2 pitcher for the league’s best team, with 166 strikeouts in 104.2 innings, whose 3.44 ERA is inflated by two back-to-back June outings when he gave up 13 runs in nine innings. Since then, he’s allowed a total of four runs in four outings while striking out 40.
Given that Gallen, like Strider, has only one preceding successful year, and Kershaw is always an injury risk at this stage of his wonderful career, the Atlanta flame-thrower at +450 is worth considering – even if not quite as worth considering as he would have been at +575.
Arizona Diamondbacks, NL West title (+460), FanDuel
Gallen’s Diamondbacks (52-39) led their division for many recent weeks, but after a 4-7 swoon of late are in a tie with the Dodgers (51-38). All of the sportsbooks’ odds strongly back Los Angeles to be better than Arizona the rest of the way, but none so much as those from FanDuel.
PointsBet and Caesars, for instance, offer a return of just +325 and +330, respectively, on the young Diamondbacks to surprise everyone by winning the division. Behind FanDuel, the best price available is +400, from both DraftKings and BetRivers.
We’re not about to suggest Arizona is better than Los Angeles, but the Dodgers aren’t as fearsome as they once were and have had myriad injury issues. To get paid off at better than 4/1 on one of two teams that is starting from essentially a dead heat at the break is rather tempting.
Corey Seager, AL MVP (+2500), BetRivers
We’d be the last to suggest that Seager is having a better season than Ohtani (best return: -750 from FanDuel and BetMGM) and currently deserves this award. But if Ohtani gets injured (he’s already contending with a blister on his finger that’s forced him to miss two starts on the mound), the Rangers shortstop is next in line for it after a career-best performance since missing the first month of the season. BetRivers returns far more money to a bettor than anyone else for that potential occurrence.
Seager is the only player in baseball other than Ohtani with an OPS above 1.000. You just won’t see it on most lists, because his number of at-bats (238) limited by his hamstring tear don’t qualify him. Same for a .353 batting average that leads the AL by 30 points.
Now that he’s healthy and on a tear that’s the good kind of tear, and all of the sportsbooks list Seager as the second favorite behind Ohtani. The others, however, go only as high at +1900, and that’s just Caesars. A successful $20 bet with BetRivers would provide $180 more than using DraftKings or BetMGM with their +1600 odds.
Now we’re talking about significant money differences, even for a recreational gambler, let alone a pro wagering far more. That’s why we line shop, and this MLB All-Star break is evidently a great time to do it.
Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images