It’s very early and there’s still waaaaay too much left in an offseason so quiet it’s causing hallucinations, but the early numbers from Vegas (per 670 The Score’s Joe Ostrowski, who is now hosting his own betting show there) are very favorable for the Cubs. Which I’m sure many of you find dubious on a number of different levels, and for good reason. One of those might be the idea that it reinforces Theo Epstein’s recent comments that they already have “more than enough resources to win.”
But even taking into account all the unknowns, which certainly make these betting lines very thin ice on which to skate, the confidence in the Cubs is heartening. So too is the makeup of the NL Central, though one could also argue that the bunched-up nature of the division makes it that much of a tougher row to hoe.
As you can see from the standings below, the AL is once again expected to boast a juggernaut trifecta with some also-rans. And while it’s nice to see the Rays up there in playoff contention, particularly in a very tough AL East, you have to wonder whether they’ll be able to keep it up over the course of the season if they don’t make some additional moves.
The NL has a very clear favorite in the Dodgers, with the next three teams separated by just half a game. The Cardinals have probably been most active when it comes to improving their team and it shows. The Cubs have done next to nothing, as have the Brewers, who fall just out of the playoff picture. But the NL East could shift markedly depending on what happens with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper.
Back to the Cubs and the Central, where only 12 games separate first from fifth. That would represent the tightest the division has been since the Cubs finished 17 games behind the Cardinals in 2014. It would also be the most wins by a last-place team since the Central was formed in 1994, surpassing the previous high of 73 (’96 Pirates, ’14 Cubs).
Now, I cannot reiterate often or strongly enough that none of this amounts to a hill of beans until all the players are signed and the season actually starts. That said, it’s always nice to have an objective view of the landscape as it currently stands. There’s a reason the Vegas desert is littered with billion-dollar monuments to excess and it ain’t ’cause the folks out there are idiots. Not all of them, anyway.
What’s more, I find it worthwhile to preserve these projections for the sake of posterity in order that we might look back at them to see how things change over time. Consider it like a child’s growth chart or a depiction of Pangaea prior to the continental divides. So maybe we’ll revisit these projections a time or two over the next month as spring training approaches.