MLB Odds, Preview, Prediction for Cubs vs. Nationals: How To Bet Matchup of Depleted Rosters (Friday, July 30)
G Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured: Juan Soto.
- Two teams that are going to be decimated by the trade deadline are going to start a three-game series on Friday night.
- The Cubs and Nationals, as of Friday morning, have already sold off some of their biggest pieces and more may come.
- Tanner McGrath breaks down the betting value in this matchup and makes his picks for the game below.
Editor’s Note: Jon Lester was reportedly traded to the St. Louis Cardinals at the MLB trade deadline on Friday afternoon.
Cubs vs. Nationals Odds
|Time||Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET|
|Odds as of Friday and via DraftKings|
This is going to be a fun series, mostly because we have no idea who will be on either team by the end of it.
The Nationals have sold half their roster and are looking to sell the other half. Meanwhile, the Cubs have dealt Anthony Rizzo as of Friday morning and are actively shopping Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel.
At the moment, these two teams are competing more in the trade market than on the field. So, in a battle between two sinking ships, where does the value lie?
The Cubs dropped three of four to the divisional rival Reds, and then proceeded to deal franchise cornerstone Rizzo to the Yankees.
To @ARizzo44, the heart and soul of the greatest Cubs team of all time.
For all you’ve done on the field and for all you do off it.
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) July 30, 2021
The Cubs are dead.
After posting a 10-20 record in their last 30 games, the Cubs are 11.5 games out of the divisional race and nine games out of the wildcard. Over the past 30 days, the Cubs pair the eighth worst OPS (.720) with the second worst FIP (5.38).
The good news is Chicago should receive a boatload of prospects for their top guys. They already picked up two from the Yankees in RHP Alexander Vizcaino and OF Kevin Alcantara, both guys who are already ranked among the Cubs top 10 prospects on MLB.com. They should snag a few more intriguing names for Bryant, who’s posted a 133 OPS+ this season.
However, I’m most interested in seeing what the market is for Craig Kimbrel. Every team needs bullpen help, and Kimbrel has posted a .50 ERA while leading all qualified pitchers in strikeout rate (46.7%).
Starting Pitcher: Trevor Williams (RHP)
Williams is the epitome of the Cubs pitching staff this season — aggressively mediocre.
Williams has posted a 5.06 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP while averaging just under five innings per start. His fastball-slider combination has actually been somewhat effective, but his three complimentary pitches are getting smashed:
|Pitch||BA Allowed||SLG Allowed|
While he’s posted poor batted ball statistics, Williams is definitely due for some positive regression. His .343 BABIP should drop down to league average (.300) and his 9.36 K/9 and 2.28 BB/9 has helped produce a 4.01 xFIP.
The projection market has his ERA and FIP between 4.60 and 4.75 for the rest of the season. While that isn’t good, it’s serviceable for a team that’s given up on competing.
Personally, I’m upset at the Nationals fire sale.
While it was an outside one, the Nationals still had a shot at the NL East crown. The pitching had somewhat regressed, but it was still serviceable, and the lineup had posted the second highest wRC+ in June (118).
But, instead of making a push, the Nationals have dealt Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Kyle Schwarber in the last 24 hours – three of the team’s top five leaders in WAR this season.
In return, however, the Nationals have pulled the Dodgers No. 1 and No. 2 prospects, according to MLB.com (C Keibert Ruiz, RHP Josiah Gray), and the Red Sox’s No. 19 prospect (RHP Aldo Ramirez).
Additionally, the Nats still have more pieces to deal. Josh Bell and Josh Harrison could be out the door soon, as well as Jon Lester.
I would love to know Juan Soto’s take on all this. Soto is putting together another unreal season, albeit quietly:
Another day, another Juan Soto appreciation post pic.twitter.com/8d0QsPPNpa
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) July 29, 2021
I can only hope he’s buying into the front office’s vision for the future. Otherwise, Soto may want to jump ship as well.
Starting Pitcher: Jon Lester (LHP)
If you’re a team looking to trade for Lester, what would you be getting?
Honestly – not much past an inning eater. The guy who once threw his fastball 95 mph and struck out 10 batters per nine innings is now a pitch-to-contact, ground-ball variance machine.
Unfortunately, this approach has not been effective. Lester has posted a 5.02 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP this season, while the Nationals are 8-8 in his starts.
He now throws his cutter as much as his four-seam:
But this fastball-heavy approach isn’t working. Even though he barely touches 90 mph with either pitch, opponents are slugging over .600 on both the pitches:
In a matchup between two of the biggest deadline sellers and two of the least effective starters in baseball, it becomes a bit tougher to project how the game will play out.
So, I’m instead going to follow our Action PRO projections in this one.
Our PRO model makes the Washington ML -103, yet the Nationals opened as a home underdog at some books. Despite losing some of their top guys, I actually quite like the Nationals chances today, as they’ve been playing much better than the Cubs in recent weeks.
If I can get the Nationals at +105 or better, I’m willing to make that play. As of Friday at noon ET, they’re +100.
Additionally, our PRO model makes the total 9.99, although the total opened at 9 at some books. As mentioned, these are two of the least effective starters in MLB. Plus, the Nationals own a 140 wRC+ at home in July and just sold off two of their relievers (Daniel Hudson and Brad Hand). The Cubs offense has been bad, but maybe Bryant or Javier Baez can smack Williams around a bit if they’re still around.
Therefore, if I can get the total at 9 juiced at -120 or less, I’m willing to make an overplay as well.
Either way, be very cautious betting this game recklessly. Given the Cubs and Nationals trajectories, anything can happen in this series.
Pick: Nationals ML (+105 or better) | Over 9 (-120 or better)