Chicago Cubs 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: ‘Bouncing Back’ From 95 Wins
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kris Bryant and Jose Quintana.
- The Cubs won 95 games and went over their win total last year, but lost in the NL Wild Card game, ending their season in disappointing fashion.
- This roster's not quite as good as it was when they won the World Series, but Chicago will benefit from the return of Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish.
Original analysis published on Feb. 27.
From World Series champs one year, to the NLCS the next, to losing the Wild Card game at home in 2018. Chicago is trending in the wrong direction, but fear not, Cubs fans!
Though the NL Central is stacked — much like the NL East — the Cubs are favored to take back the crown. If they managed 95 wins in a “down” year, they should be even better with a healthy Kris Bryant, right?
What about a healthy Yu Darvish? A full season with Cole Hamels as their fifth starter? Could this team benefit from a disappointing end to their 2018 campaign? I think so.
- Record: 95-68 (+2.3 units), 81-82 ATS (+1.1 units)
- Over/Under Record: 73-88-2
- Preseason World Series Odds: +850
- Win Total: 93.5
- Most Profitable Starter: Jon Lester (24-8, +9.7 units)
With the way most folks were talking about the Cubs last year and this winter, you’d have thought they won 86 games and missed the playoffs entirely. Though they did leave a sour taste following a loss in game 163 and their loss in the Wild Card game to the Rockies, they had a very respectable regular season.
- World Series Odds: +1200
- Division Odds: +180
- Win Total O/U: 88.5
- Playoff Odds: Make -110, Miss -110
As is the case with the NL East, the NL Central is expected to be very tight. The Cubs are considered to be a nose better than the Cardinals, who are a nose better than the reigning NL Central champions, the Milwaukee Brewers.
Projection systems don’t know what to make of this division, with Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA saying the Cubs will win 79 games and come in last place in the division, while Fangraphs thinks they’ll win 87 games and win the division.
I’m personally of the belief that the Cubs and Cardinals are a tier above the Brewers. I’ll be waiting around a bit to monitor the market as more books release division futures, but may be taking either team, or potentially both, depending on the prices I can get.
- Key Additions: Kendall Graveman, Daniel Descalso, Brad Brach, Tony Barnette, Xavier Cedeno, Johnny Field, Kyle Ryan, Colin Rea (minors)
- Key Subtractions: Daniel Murphy, Jesse Chavez, Jaime Garcia, Justin Wilson, Jorge De La Rosa, Tommy La Stella, Bobby Wilson, Drew Smyly, Justin Hancock
- Potential Lineup
- Ben Zobrist – 2B
- Kris Bryant – 3B
- Anthony Rizzo – 1B
- Javy Baez – SS
- Willson Contreras – C
- Kyle Schwarber – LF
- Jason Heyward – RF
- Albert Almora – CF
- Projected Rotation
- Jon Lester
- Yu Darvish
- Cole Hamels
- Kyle Hendricks
- Jose Quintana
- Prospect Watch: Adbert Alzolay (Unranked, RHP), Keegan Thompson (Unranked, RHP)
- Key Injuries: Kendall Graveman (Tommy John, possibly late 2019), Brandon Morrow (Elbow, early 2019), Tony Barnette (Shoulder, early 2019)
- MVP Candidates: Kris Bryant (+1200), Anthony Rizzo (+2000), Javier Baez (+2500), Kyle Schwarber (+8000),
- Cy Young Candidates: Jon Lester (+4000), Jose Quintana (+5000), Kyle Hendricks (+5000), Cole Hamels (+6000), Yu Darvish (+10000),
Player to Watch: Kris Bryant
In each of Bryant’s first three seasons, he played at least 150 games, posted an fWAR higher than 6.0 and hit more than 25 home runs. Last year, he struggled with shoulder injuries and played 102 games. In those games, he was not as productive, hitting just 13 home runs and a 125 wRC+ — which is good, but subpar for Bryant.
I have Bryant in the same boat as Carlos Correa. Both guys are coming off injury riddle seasons in which they missed time and weren’t as good when they did play.
Like Correa, Bryant does believe he is back to 100%, and if that’s the case, he should be an MVP candidate once again.
In his first three seasons, he came in 11th, first and seventh in the NL MVP voting. In this age when everything matters in the MVP race — not just hitting — Bryant has an advantage, as he can field and is a surprisingly good baserunner for a guy his size.
Keep an eye on him in spring training, but I’m personally planning on taking Bryant to win NL MVP if oddsmakers are down on him.
Regardless of his MVP odds, the Cubs should greatly benefit from him being back to full health.
Pitcher(s) to Watch: Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana
I’m sure that one year ago the Cubs were looking forward to having Yu Darvish and Jose Quintana in their rotation. Both were expensive acquisitions.
Quintana cost prospects, including the up-and-coming stud Eloy Jimenez, while Darvish cost money — $126 million over six years, to be exact.
Both had forgettable 2018 campaigns, though. It’s actually surprising that the Cubs managed to win 95 games given their contributions.
Darvish made just eight starts and posted an ERA of 4.95. A career-worst 4.73 walks per nine may have had something to do with that. He was forced to miss most of the season with triceps and elbow issues, though is reportedly healthy now.
He was a bit rusty in his spring training debut and had trouble finding the plate like he did last year, which is something to monitor.
Quintana stayed healthy all year and made 32 starts, but was disappointing. I know I was very disappointed, as he was one of my favorite preseason Cy Young picks at 30-1. Thought I got mad value …
In his 2017 half-season debut with the Cubs, he posted a career high 4.67 K/BB ratio. Last year, that was more than halved at just 2.32. It was also easily his worst mark since his rookie season.
Quintana’s career body of work suggests last year was an outlier, and I’m confident he can rebound from his mediocre campaign.
If both these guys can pitch to their abilities and stay healthy this year, the Cubs’ rotation has no weak spots.
The Cubs won their World Series and got the Billy Goat off their backs, but I think it’s safe to say they have disappointed in the two years since. This is likely thanks to the media for making it sound like Chicago would win each of the next five World Series, too.
Though Chicago is falling short of those ridiculous expectations, it should still have at least a couple more runs in them.
Theo Epstein and friends have exhausted the Cubs’ once excellent farm system and will likely trade off s’more chips this summer — probably for bullpen help. They still have a young core of homegrown position players in Bryant, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber, but there’s no longer a glut of studs waiting to come up from the minors.
Here are their most notable deals over the past few years:
- Current #3 overall prospect Eloy Jimenez and #21 overall prospect Dylan Cease to the White Sox for Quintana
- Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapmam
- Jorge Soler to Kansas City for Wade Davis
- Jeimer Candelario to Detroit for Alex Avila and Justin Wilson
Now they have the second-worst farm system in baseball per Keith Law, which leaves them with limited trade possibilities.
The Cubbies have a high ceiling, but you better hope they don’t catch the injury bug, especially in the pitching department where there’s not much depth.
Given the competitiveness in their division and National League in general, I’m staying away from their win total. It’s not worth betting on in case something goes awry, especially when you’re not getting a plus-money payout.
Taking them at 2-1 or better to win the division does have a bit of value in my eye, though. They’re angry and determined to have a great season. Couple that with a solid rotation and excellent infield and you’ve got yourself a contender.
All odds via Westgate SuperBook as of Feb. 25
Transactions accurate as of Mar. 25. Free agents deemed subtractions until they re-sign