No team has repeated as the World Series champion since the Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000, and Bovada oddsmakers believe there will be a new king of baseball next season with the Dodgers opening as 7-1 favorites.
The Dodgers entered the 2013 playoffs also as the favorites despite finishing as the No. 3 seed in the National League. Los Angeles dispatched Atlanta in four games in the NLDS but was beaten in six by St. Louis in the NLCS. Why is LA favored over the Cardinals and Red Sox? Everyone of note is expected back, and the Dodgers are flush with money and could add some big-name free agents.
The best 1-2 pitching punch in NL, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, is in place for LA, although Kershaw could command a $300 million extension this offseason. Top hitters Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier also return. The Dodgers didn’t have Kemp this postseason and he’s a superstar when healthy, which hasn’t been much the past two seasons.
With Puig, Crawford, Ethier and Kemp, the Dodgers may trade one of the expensive outfielders to improve another position, likely pitcher or third baseman. The Dodgers already have signed Cuban free agent Alexander Guerrero, and he could be the team’s starting second baseman. That should take Los Angeles out of the market for Yankees free agent star second baseman Robinson Cano.
Detroit is the American League World Series favorite at 9-1; it was the championship favorite immediately after last season’s Fall Classic sweep at the hands of the Giants. The Tigers also have all their stars in place: Miguel Cabrera, who should be fine for spring training after recently undergoing groin surgery; Prince Fielder; Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, the best 1-2 pitching punch in the AL. Scherzer will be a free agent after 2014 so the Tigers could be forced to trade the expected AL Cy Young winner as the payroll likely can’t take another $20-million-per-year player.
The only key Tigers set to become free agents are closer Joaquin Benoit, second baseman Omar Infante and shortstop Jhonny Peralta. The Tigers have Peralta’s replacement in former Red Sox Jose Iglesias. Expect Detroit to make their bullpen a priority this offseason, as that was the main reason the Red Sox were able to beat the Tigers in the ALCS. Detroit’s bullpen allowed seven earned runs in 12.2 innings. Detroit also has to replace manager Jim Leyland.
Boston comes in at 10-1 along with St. Louis and Washington. The Red Sox reached the playoffs after their past two titles, losing in the 2008 ALCS to Tampa Bay in seven games and getting swept in the 2005 ALDS by the White Sox. The Sox’s big free agent is Jacoby Ellsbury, who is likely to command too much on the open market for the Sox to match. Mike Napoli‘s contract also is up.
The main free agent for St. Louis is outfielder Carlos Beltran, who has been rumored as a target for the Yankees (16-1). Beltran is a terrific hitter but will be 37 next April and perhaps better suited to play designated hitter occasionally.