It turns out we WILL be having a baseball season after all. After a months-long lockout, camps are now open again with a labor agreement in place, and we’ve had a frenzy of transactions over the last couple of weeks as teams try to do an offseason’s worth of rebuilding and retooling in a couple of days.
Now, with the rosters mostly set, we can start thinking about making some season-long futures prop bets. There are some changes this year that will be helpful to know when trying to predict how things will look in October. Most significantly, the expanded playoffs. Here’s how that could affect the outcomes of your MLB futures.
Expanded Playoffs: Rich Get Richer
Two extra teams have been added to the playoffs, meaning that a total of 12 teams will make the postseason. This will obviously have the biggest impact on the “Will team xxx make the playoffs?” futures betting. With an extra spot in each league, the odds on most contenders will rise accordingly.
There are some other markets that this change will affect as well, however. The Team Total Wins prop could be influenced by the expanded postseason field. We’ve seen increased polarization among MLB contenders in recent seasons, with super teams running away from the rest of the division, and overmatched tanking teams giving a nearly guaranteed win to opponents. The expanded postseason may actually make that problem worse.
Six teams make the field in each league, and the top two teams get byes past the first round. That means that teams like the Dodgers, who have the World Series atop their list of goals at the start of the season, will be motivated to get one of those coveted two spots. Los Angeles underscored that by adding yet another former MVP to its lineup by signing Freddie Freeman. The Blue Jays have had a similar offseason approach in the American League, bulking up to try to get one of those top two spots.
For the elite teams in each league, the over-on-season win totals may be a smart wager.
Expanded Playoffs: The Rich Get Cheaper
There’s another way teams could approach the expanded playoffs. With an extra spot available, their safety net just got a little bit bigger. That means, instead of opening the season hoping to win 92 or 93 games, they can probably get by with 88 or 89 and still make the playoffs.
So maybe they don’t open the checkbook to add another starting pitcher or bat to the lineup. That appears to be the approach the Yankees took this offseason. With the best crop of shortstops in recent memory on the open market, New York sat out the rush to sign the elite players.
With Tampa winning the last two American League East Divisions, Toronto looking much improved, and teams in each of the other two MLB divisions making strides, the Yankees may be content to bide their time and maybe make a run at the trade deadline during the season. That would make an under-on-the-win total a safer bet.
More teams in the field mean more chances to be eliminated—at least for the teams that don’t get the coveted bye. So Pennant Winner and World Series Winner futures will also be impacted by the two tiers the expanded playoffs present. Teams that get a bye will have a significant advantage over teams that need to fight it out in an extra round.