Aaron Judge, MLB’s top free agent, has chosen to return to the New York Yankees after signing a nine-year, $360 million contract extension on Wednesday, but does that necessarily mean the Yankees are the team to beat in 2023? Yeah, we know MLB free agency isn’t over yet, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a look at some way too early betting odds and discuss who’s signed where so far this offseason. Visit OKBET Baseball Sports Betting for more betting odds option, best picks, predictions, best bet, and analysis.
New York Yankees (+450 to win the American League; +900 to win the World Series)
We started this discussion with the Yankees, and we might as well finish it with them. To keep Judge in New York, Hal Steinbrenner had to dig deep into his bank account, but bad news, Yankees fans: you’re not the team to beat. No way, not in the American League.
The Astros may have lost reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander earlier this week to the Mets, but they are still the team to beat. No, not only in the American League, but throughout baseball.
New York is unquestionably a better team with Judge — duh — but Judge cannot do everything. Judge can’t close out games or pitch in the late innings, so Houston is the team to bet on until New York tightens its bullpen and avoids bleak offensive nights like they did in August.
After being left off the ALDS roster due to missing a workout, Aroldis Chapman is pretty much a lock to pitch for any team other than the Yankees in 2023, but Chapman wasn’t the only New York reliever who had ups and downs in 2022.
Clay Holmes was dominant for the first half of the season, but then the second half arrived… and Holmes was nowhere to be found. New York abandoned Holmes and acquired Lou Trivino from the A’s just before the trade deadline. Holmes was definitely better in the second half after returning to his set-up role, but nowhere near as good as he was in the first.
Not to mention the Yankees’ August woes. Even with the AL single-season home run leader doing his thing, New York finished August 10-18 and struggled to score runs. And while re-signing Anthony Rizzo is significant for New York, the Yankees still need more production from the shortstop position, and outside of Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes at the top of their rotation, the Yankees still need help rounding out their rotation, particularly after losing Jameson Taillon to the Cubs on Wednesday.
The bottom line is as follows. The Yankees will be in the mix to win the AL East and make a deep postseason run every year, but they’ve struggled with Houston, and betting against the Astros is a bad idea until the Yankees actually beat them in the playoffs.
Houston Astros (+275 to win the American League pennant; +550 to win the World Series)
No problem without Verlander, right? I wouldn’t say that, but don’t start betting against the Astros just because the Yankees and Red Sox have been active in free agency thus far. Losing the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, Justin Verlander, is nearly impossible to replace, but fortunately for Houston, the Astros have starting pitching depth and possibly the best overall lineup in the AL.
This season, Framber Valdez set an MLB record with 25 consecutive quality starts, and even if Houston signs a big-name starting pitcher during free agency, Valdez should still be considered the ace. Valdez wasn’t quite as good as Verlander this season, but he wasn’t far behind. The southpaw was incredibly consistent (hence the quality starts record), allowing no more than two runs in each of his four postseason starts. Houston is well aware of what it has in Valdez.
However, Valdez is not the be-all and end-all of Houston. Cristian Javier is coming off a breakout season in which he did not allow a single run as a starter in the postseason. And he threw six no-hitter innings in Game 4 of the World Series against the Phillies. Javier’s confidence should be as high as it has always been, and he should be named Houston’s No. 2 or No. 3 starter. And Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Uriquidy, and Luis Garcia are all capable back-of-the-rotation pitchers with plenty of experience, including World Series experience.
Houston’s only weakness entering the postseason was its bullpen, which it quickly remedied. The Houston bullpen was outstanding in the postseason, and it wasn’t due to a single pitcher. The Houston bullpen finished the postseason with a 0.83 ERA and, perhaps more impressively, struck out 75 batters in 54.1 innings. Strikeouts are important in the postseason, especially with runners on base, and the Houston bullpen had no trouble with that.
Last but not least, there’s the Houston offense. After slashing.306/.406/.613/1.019 in his first All-Star season, Yordan Alvarez was arguably the best true DH in baseball in 2022. Let’s face it: Alvarez was the sparkplug for Houston’s offense, and don’t be surprised if they’re just as good, if not better, next season, especially if Michael Brantley can be re-signed.
Kyle Tucker has hit 30 home runs in consecutive seasons, and Jeremy Pena is the reigning ALCS and World Series MVP. Not to mention Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve… you see, they have so many good hitters. Houston has dominated the American League for quite some time, and betting against them is simply not a good idea… even without Verlander.
Boston Red Sox (+1500 to win the American League East; +3000 to win the World Series)
Boston has gone bonkers in MLB free agency, but don’t bet on the Red Sox winning the World Series or the AL Pennant, let alone the AL East. Boston had baseball’s fifth-highest bullpen ERA, and the AL’s second-highest, and, well, they’ve addressed the bullpen so far this offseason. The Red Sox signed veteran closer Kenley Jensen on Wednesday and versatile reliever Chris Martin the week before.
Don’t get me wrong: those are two solid signings, but they don’t elevate the Red Sox to the level of the Yankees or Astros. No way. Not even close.
Even after signing Japanese superstar Masataka Yoshida to a five-year, $90-million contract on Wednesday, Boston may still be the worst team in the American League East. After all, with the exception of Boston, every team in the AL East finished above.500.
Yoshida has all of the tools to be a star, but transitioning from the Nippon League to MLB can be difficult. Don’t be so quick to assume Yoshida will hit the ground running in his MLB debut. Even if he does well, Boston, particularly ace Chris Sale, has struggled to stay healthy. The Red Sox have certainly made progress this offseason, but in what is arguably baseball’s best division, betting on Boston to make the playoffs is extremely risky.
Phillies (+600 to win the NL Pennant; +1300 to win the World Series)
We’ve already discussed the American League, so let’s move on to the National League. Following a 21-29 start through the first two months of the season, the Phillies shocked the world by making it all the way to the World Series, and now they’re looking to win it all in 2023. Earlier this week, the Phillies signed shortstop Trea Turner to an 11-year, $300 million contract, and on Wednesday, they signed starting pitcher Taijuan Walker and reliever Matt Strahm to multi-year deals.
The Phillies have a true ace in Zack Wheeler and a solid No. 2 in Aaron Nola, but they needed another starter and Walker is a good fit. Even better, acquiring Walker from NL East rival New York makes it even sweeter. Without Turner, the Phillies offense was solid; now, it may be the best in the NL. Turner can bat at the top or bottom of the order and is an above-average defensive shortstop. Adding him to the mix with Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber, and Nick Castellanos elevates the Phillies from a repeat playoff team to a contender for the NL Championship.
After taking over for a fired Joe Girardi midway through the season, Rob Thompson performed better than anyone could have expected, and Philly rewarded him with a multi-year contract. Thompson is clearly the right man for the job, but things don’t get any easier. There is now an expectation to win meaningful games — that is, games in October — rather than just games in the city of brotherly love.
Dave Dombrowski’s aggressive offseason signings confirm that the Phillies are going all in, and now we’ll see how they respond without the underdog label in 2023. The bullpen had some issues, and Strahm makes Philadelphia better than they were a year ago, but how much better is debatable. Philly is a really good team, but with so many other good teams like the Dodgers, Padres, Braves, and Mets, you might be better off waiting until spring training before betting on Philly to win the NL East again.
New York Mets (+450 for NL Pennant; +950 for World Series)
The Mets lost arguably the best pitcher in franchise history in Jacob deGrom to the Rangers, but they did acquire Justin Verlander, a future first ballot Hall of Famer. Verlander may not be better than deGrom, but he does not have the latter’s injury history, which is a huge plus. DeGrom struggled mightily to stay on the mound, and losing him isn’t the end of the world. At the top of the Mets’ rotation, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer remain a formidable 1-2 punch, and Buck Showalter proved he was the right man for the job after winning NL Manager of the Year after a 101-win season.
Furthermore, the Mets have the best reliever in the NL in Edwin Diaz, and despite occasionally struggling defensively, the Mets’ strong pitching staff and OBP-driven offense should be able to compensate for any defensive shortcomings. Expect the Mets to be near the top of the NL East once again in 2023, and to make a stronger playoff push. It’s still early, but betting on the Mets to win the NL and World Series isn’t a bad idea, especially since the odds are likely to fall following the signings of other teams this winter.
Los Angeles Dodgers (+285 to win the National League pennant and +600 to win the World Series)
Don’t put money on the Dodgers winning the World Series or the NL Pennant, let alone the NL West. We’re skeptical the Dodgers can win the NL West after losing Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Tyler Anderson.
The Giants were unable to sign Judge, but don’t be surprised if they make a splash in free agency. And, while San Francisco dropped off significantly in 2022 after winning 107 games and the NL West in 2021, don’t be surprised if they return to their winning ways in 2023, especially if Carlos Rodon can be re-signed. The Giants require another bat, a big bat, and they are available. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have just lost two players in Turner and Bellinger. San Francisco isn’t quite at LA’s level yet, but it’s not far behind.
But do you know who is on the same level as LA? The San Diego Padres. San Diego could have won the World Series if Fernando Tatis Jr. had not been suspended for testing positive for PEDs; however, with Tatis back in 2023, San Diego will be dangerous. San Diego went all in before the trade deadline, acquiring Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Josh Hader, and after only half a season together, this team is a legitimate World Series contender for 2023.
Even if Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish aren’t as good as they were a year ago, expect them to be solid, and at the top of a starting rotation that is already deep, this Padres team has few holes. But aren’t we supposed to be talking about the Dodgers? Not the NL West’s other teams.
I understand, but it’s difficult not to bring them up. Clayton Kershaw is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he’ll be 35 in 2023, and unless he’s on the Tom Brady diet, that could be the year Father Time catches up with him. Don’t forget about all the problems LA had closing out games, particularly when Craig Kimbrel was the closer. Having Walker Buehler back next year will undoubtedly help, but betting on the Dodgers is a bad idea right now.