It’s amazing what a 40-year-old pitcher in his 19th MLB season can do for a team’s postseason chances in the eyes of oddsmakers.
When the dust settled at 6 p.m. Tuesday after a flurry of activity at baseball’s trade deadline, it was the Houston Astros’ acquisition of Justin Verlander that shifted futures odds more than any other player movement that took place.
While the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers continue to have the best World Series odds among the online national sportsbooks, the Astros by Wednesday morning had moved up alongside the Tampa Bay Rays — and in some cases surpassed them — for third place among teams most likely to be MLB’s 2023 champion.
At the same time, Houston leapfrogged the Texas Rangers in both World Series odds and as the favorite to win the AL West in one of baseball’s most competitive divisions.
A slew of other prominent players changed teams this week — the Rangers got their own Mets-traded three-time Cy Young Award winner in Max Scherzer — but Verlander’s return to Houston was the deal that most caught the eye of oddsmakers.
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The old Verlander creates new odds
Verlander, 6-5 with a 3.15 ERA and 1.145 WHIP for the Mets, started the season on the injured list. While the AL Cy Young winner on last year’s World Series-winning Astros did not look quite like his old self initially when returning to action in May, he’s been excellent the past two months.
The Astros have a record of 61-47 without him this year, sitting a half-game behind the Rangers. As of Monday, most of the sportsbooks had the Rangers favored over the Astros to win the division, but that’s no longer the case.
FanDuel has shifted the Astros divisional odds to -130 with the Rangers +115, nearly the reverse image of Monday, when it was Rangers -135 and Astros +120. BetRivers has moved the Astros from +125 to -125, with the Rangers listed at +110. DraftKings was a rare site that already had given Houston a slight edge, but now it’s wider, with Houston -125 and Texas +130.
The biggest boost Houston received in World Series odds came from BetRivers, moving the Astros from +850 to +600 (behind the Braves at +325, Dodgers at +500, and Rays at +525). Caesars Sportsbook also moved them significantly, from +750 to +550, placing them third ahead of Tampa.
As of Wednesday morning, these are the most lucrative odds a World Series bettor can obtain at seven national sites – FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, Caesars, Barstool Sportsbook, BetRivers, and PointsBet — on the 10 teams given the best chance of winning the title:
- Braves: +330 (DraftKings, Caesars)
- Dodgers: +550 (Barstool)
- Astros: +700 (FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM, PointsBet)
- Rays: +900 (Barstool)
- Rangers: +1100 (DraftKings)
- Orioles: +1200 (all sites)
- Blue Jays: +1800 (Caesars)
- Phillies: +2500 (Caesars)
- Twins: +3000 (BetMGM, BetRivers)
- Giants: +3200 (FanDuel)
Little odds movement elsewhere
Other contending teams helped themselves at the deadline, in the eyes of oddsmakers as well as their own GMs, even if the names involved won’t go on plaques alongside those of Verlander and Scherzer in Cooperstown.
The Phillies, though with virtually no chance of winning the NL East, currently would have a wild card spot — barely — and bolstered their starting rotation with the addition of Michael Lorenzen.
They’ve also won their last two games to improve to 58-49, and in the space of 48 hours their World Series odds improved from +2500 to +1900 at FanDuel and from +2000 to +1600 at DraftKings, which views the Phils with a better chance than does any other site.
The Rays at 66-44 sit 1.5 games behind the AL East-leading Orioles, but after winning three straight games and acquiring pitcher Aaron Civale from the Cleveland Guardians, most sportsbooks have them as a favorite over Baltimore to win the division. FanDuel has them -115 to Baltimore’s +105, while Barstool has Tampa +100 and Baltimore +120. In baseball’s best division, the Rays have generally been viewed as the favorite ever since their hot start.
And then there are some never-say-die teams like the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Angels that were among the most active at the trade deadline, willing to give up prospects for multiple players who could help them in the next two months — but the oddsmakers mostly shrugged because those teams are so far back.
After the 53-55 Padres’ moves, BetRivers was willing to shift their World Series odds from +4000 to +3200 (the shortest for San Diego among the seven sites), but DraftKings went the other way, from +4000 to +4500.
As for the 56-52 Angels, no sportsbook improved their odds, and BetMGM and PointsBet liked them even less, shifting their World Series chances from +6000 to +6600 and from +7000 to +7500, respectively.
Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images