This is the time of year where hope springs eternal and everyone has a chance at a new beginning, except maybe in baseball. While a determined mind can create endless possibilities, there can be a limit to what certain minds can accomplish. The same goes with Major League Baseball teams.
It's all well and good to say, "It's a new year, anything can happen!" But, the truth is, that's only a cliche so some team doesn't give up on a season before they ever hear an umpire scream, "Play ball!"
Lets face it, surprise teams don't come out of nowhere to win the World Series. In the last 20 seasons, only the Florida Marlins, they weren't named Miami yet, in 2003 won the World Series in unsuspecting fashion. And even though they weren't in the top half of the Baseball odds to win it all at the onset of the season, looking back on the roster, it shouldn't surprise anyone that they won the title. Players like Josh becket, Brad Penny, Miguel Cabrera, Ivan Rodriguez, Dontrelle Willis, Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre make up a championship caliber core.
So, even though all 30 MLB teams aren't on this list, these are the only teams that have a shot at the 2016 World Series championship. There won't be an omission of a team possibly built to win in all this year on this list.
And now, in descending order, the teams with a shot at the 2016 World Series, their odds and why they're there. All odds are from a Las Vegas composite of all MLB future odds.
16 Detroit Tigers - 30 to 1
The Tigers have been annual contenders in the AL Central, except for last season when they fell flat on their faces and finished in last place. New GM Al Aliva used as much of Mike Ilitch's money as he could to help bolster the rotation, bullpen and outfield. He brought in starter Jordan Zimmermann to slot behind Justin Verlander and possibly the best closer in this era, Frankie "K Rod" Rodriguez. The upgrade in pitching and the addition of Cameron Maybin to roam the massive centerfield of Comerica Park should help the Tigers to allow less runs. Newly acquired Justin Upton is another right handed bat in the order to take pressure off Miguel Cabrera. However, if they are going to contend for the World Series this year, they'll need Verlander to revert back to Ace form. He was 5-8 with a 3.38 ERA last season while dealing with arm and shoulder issues.
15 Los Angeles Angels - 30 to 1
Nearly every offseason the Los Angeles Angels make a huge splash via free agency or acquire a stud in a trade, except this past offseason. Instead of going after big fish to restock his pond, Angels GM Billy Eppler made it a point to bring back his quality players at affordable deals and the biggest trade he made was to bring in defensive whiz, shortstop Andrelton Simmons. They also added Yunel Escobar at third to replace the departed David Freese. The Angels have one of the lowest rated farm systems in baseball and will have to patch together a team that can help phenom Mike Trout contend for a championship.
14 Arizona Diamondbacks - 25 to 1
The Diamondbacks went from an also-ran to a contender with one move, the signing of former Dodgers starter, Zack Greinke. Snaring him from the Dodgers and keeping him away from the Giants was almost as important as getting the 2009 Al Cy Young winner into the rotation. But, Greinke wasn't the only UFA addition by the D Backs, they also signed dominant setup man, Tyler Clippard, to bolster their quality backend. It will give manager Chip Hale plenty of options to protect leads created by unheralded offensive superstars Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock.
13 Texas Rangers - 20 to 1
The Rangers have flown under the radar for the last couple seasons as one of the best teams in the American League. They were a strike away from winning the World Series in 2011 and have been a contender almost every season since. They'll be able to contend again this season if the injury bug stays away from their few offensive weapons. Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and the re-acquired Josh Hamilton staying healthy are paramount to the Rangers staying in contention. Also, having newly signed Ian Desmond transition from shortstop to centerfield will be a major factor in whether they win. But, if Cole Hamels has a dominant contract season, that could be enough to lead the Rangers to a World Series title.
12 New York Yankees - 20 to 1
Once again the Yankees are loaded with overpriced stars that are on the backend of their careers, but still produce. However, even with a long list of distinguished former all stars on the roster, the key for the Yankees contending for a World Series championship, their one and only goal every season, is for their young players to step up and produce big time. C.C Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka are both handsomely compensated, but one is coming off elbow rehab and the other is coming out of 'rehab' rehab. It'll be up to their young starting pitchers Luis Severino, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda to carry the weight. They should be able to, as all three of the 26 and younger hurlers combined to go 31-16 last season.
11 Washington Nationals - 18 to 1
The Nationals were the odds on favorite to win it all last season because of their dominant starting staff, but that didn't come to fruition. Even with Bryce Harper having a break out season, it was evident early on that the Nationals wouldn't be a complete enough to contend for the pennant. They don't look as good on paper as they did in 2015, but maybe playing with less expectations will help them play to their capabilities. GM Mike Rizzo was very aggressive this offseason to bolster his bullpen and bring in left handed hitting offensive players. He traded for relievers Trevor Gott and Michael Bradley and signed former Padres set up man, Shawn Kelly. But, the best toy that new manager Dusty Baker gets to play with is second baseman Daniel Murphy. The left handed slugger is coming off a career year and a playoff run of historic proportions.
10 Toronto Blue Jays - 18 to 1
The Toronto Blue Jays were an offensive juggernaut in 2015 and bashed their way to an AL East crown. They will have to do much of the same in 2016 if they want to contend again, because they did very little to upgrade their average pitching. In fact, with the loss of trade deadline pickup David Price, the staff is actually worse. President Mark Shapiro knows he has to sign Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and 2015 Al MVP Josh Donaldson to contracts before the end of this season. So, there's only so much money to go around, which resulted in Shapiro going on the cheap side to acquire arms. He went to the scrapheap and gave Gavin Floyd and David Ardsma minor league contracts in hops of catching lightning in a bottle. However, the Blue Jays should be better in the bullpen with the addition of Drew Storen in a trade with the Nationals.
9 Pittsburgh Pirates - 18 to 1
Clint Hurdle's boys didn't just have the second best record in the NL Central, they had the second best record in all of baseball behind their division rivals, the 100 win St Louis Cardinals. The Pirates made their third consecutive trip to the postseason in 2015, their first such streak since the Barry Bonds' teams of 1990-92. However, even though the organization is in the midst of their best run in decades, nothing is assured in 2016. They moved starter Charlie Morton and second baseman Neil Walker, who the Pirates said they wouldn't re-sign when they become UFAs at season's end. They also didn't offer slugging first baseman Pedro Alvarez a contract. And despite losing all these players, the Pirates only added 3B David Freese, RHP Ryan Vogelsong and got Jon Neise in the Walker deal. So, the Pirates were a dominant team in 2015 and are now weaker. They'll need career years from their staff to match last season's win total.
8 St Louis Cardinals - 15 to 1
The perennial favorites of the NL Central should be battling for first place again in 2016, despite losing some key contributors. But, that's what the Redbirds do, they lose talent and reload every season. But, there are a lot of questions if that can happen again after an offseason where the organization lost significantly more than it added. St Louis lost its bidding war with their bitter rivals, the Cubs, for the services of defensive whiz Jason Heyward. What really hurts the Cardinals is that they offered more to Heyward than the Cubs, but the 26 year old cited the younger core of the Cubs as his reason to switch sides. It's a loss that will hurt the offensive challenged Cardinals who were 24th in runs scored in 2015. Heyward's .293 batting average may not look impressive, but it was best on the team last year. Also, consider that the pitching dominant Cardinals, their 2.94 ERA made them the only MLB team under 3.00, also lost their #2 starter, John Lackey, to the Cubs. The Cardinals are only on this list because of their history of replacing talent with productive no-names.
7 Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70) 1st NL West - 14 to 1
The Dodgers go on an impressive spending spree every offseason in a desperate move to win their first World Series since 1988. However, even the deep pocket Dodgers couldn't keep half of their dominant pitching duo together in LA. The Diamondbacks were able to lure Zack Greinke away from Chavez Ravine, which has hurt the Dodgers' rotation remarkably. Not only did the normally high spending Dodgers get outbid for Greinke, they were outbid for all the big name targets this offseason. That, or situations arose that left them empty handed. They tried to add pitchers Aroldis Chapman and Hisashi Iwakuma, but the reliever add off field issues and Iwakuma didn't pass his physical. So, the Dodgers are weaker than last season, when they lost in the NLDS to the Mets. The bright side for the Dodgers is that their farm system is one of the most highly regarded in baseball.
6 Houston Astros - 14 to 1
The Astros have gone through a remarkable turnaround after years of futility and have enough young talent to contend for a World Series. Their victory over the New York Yankees in the Al Wild Card Game last season lifted them into the ALDS versus the eventual world champion Royals to give their youth a dose of experience. Shortstop Carlos Correa is the cornerstone of the franchise and the youngest, 20, of all the talent at the MLB level. He teams up with All Star, Jose Altuve, to make up the top double-play combination in the game. If the Astros can get another great season from 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel, they will have a great chance to win the AL West and have a shot to win the first World Series in team history.
5 Boston Red Sox - 14 to 1
Rarely does a last place team earn enough of the bettors' confidence to end up being one of the favorites. However, very few baseball organizations have the resources of the Red Sox, nor the history. The BoSox finished last in 2012 and won the 2013 World Series, so there is a recent precedent for a quick turnaround in Beantown. Those resources I referred to earlier give optimism for that turnaround. The Red Sox won the bidding war for lefty starter David Price, which will go a long way to help their struggling pitching staff. Adding dominant closer Craig Kimbrell does nothing but upgrade the back end of their bullpen. If Pablo Sandoval can prove he can hit with a beachball under his shirt, they might have enough offense to contend. Big Papi, David Ortiz, will be intent on going out strong in his final MLB season.
4 Kansas City Royals - 14 to 1
The 2015 World Series champions are bound to take a step back this season due to losing talent like Ben Zobrist and Greg Holland. But, this idea that they'll finish in last in the AL Central is absolutely absurd. That's where the Baseball Prospectus PECOTA system sees the Royals finishing in 2016. However, odds to win the World Series are determined by the betting public and how much money is coming down on a team. Obviously, there's enough wagers being placed on the defending champs that they're still in the top 5 of favorites. But, in order for them to 'overachieve' from what the analytics predict out of them, they'll need their young Ace, Yordano Ventura, to step up and dominate like he did in the 2015 World Series.
3 New York Mets - 12 to 1
The young 2015 New York Mets won their division and marched right into the World Series behind their starting rotation and they didn't rest on their laurels, they improved this offseason. They kept Yoenis Cespedes in town and added other veterans to make up for the loss of postseason bulldog, Daniel Murphy. Neil Walker will bring a better glove than Murphy and his 16+ homes the last three seasons to second base and slick fielding power bat Asdrubal Cabrera takes over at shortstop. The improved defense will back the best rotation in the game. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steve Matz are as good as it gets in baseball. If they remain healthy, the Mets should cruise to a repeat NL East division crown and be a formidable playoff matchup for any contender.
2 San Francisco Giants - 10 to 1
There may be no better reason than to make the Giants one of the top favorites to win the World Series than it's an even year. The Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, and they're set for another run at a title this season. But, they had to go out and buy pitching in order to be able to do it. They still have dominant Ace Madison Bumgarner to eat up innings and pile up victories in his #1 role, but they had to go to the free agent pool to fill out the rest of the rotation. They bought Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija as their #2 and #3 starters who will join Jake Peavy and Matt Cain at the #5 slot. If these hurlers throw to their expectations, the Giants and their contact offense, who led the NL in batting average last season, will flourish. Buster Posey is still behind the plate and Joe Panik and Brendan Crawford are the best double-play combination in the N.L. and right behind the Altuve/Correa combo of Houston for MLB best. If Angel Pagan returns with a healthy knee, their outfield defense will be much improved and help guide them to an NL West crown and a shot in the playoffs.
1 Chicago Cubs (97-65) - 4 to 1
You read those odds, right? Not only are the Chicago Cubs the favorites to win the 2016 World Series title, they're prohibitive favorites. This number may be too high because of so many people throwing money at the Cubs in hopes that they can claim a winning ticket when they finally end the championship-less streak that's been around since 1908. But, even though the number is too low, there's legitimate reasons to see the Cubs as the odds on favorite. Right now they're the best team on paper in baseball. There were no significant losses, unless you consider losing Starlin Castro in a trade with the Yankees for Adam Warren as significant, and there have been bountiful additions. They signed Ben Zobrist to take over second base and lengthen the lineup. They strengthened their outfield defense and added pop and base running to the lineup with Jason Heyward, not to mention weakening the Cardinals. Speaking of the Cardinals, they also snatched John Lackey from their division rivals to give them a formidable starting rotation. They'll have 2015 NL Cy Young winner, Jake Arrieta, and can pair Jon Lester with his 2013 World Series winning Red Sox teammate, John Lackey, to give them a playoff ready rotation. Plus, adding Lackey pushes back Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks to their more appropriate slots of #4 and #5 starters. The young lineup should only be better with another year of experience and the additions of Heyward and Zobrist, which could be a wicked combination with the pitching staff. The Cubs have the lineup, the defense and the pitching to win it all, now they only have to overcome mental hurdles. Joe Maddon will need to keep his team loose and not worried about ending 108 years of ineptitude with each game.
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