Chances are, the 2021 American League MVP currently isn’t a member of the Boston Red Sox. But if there’s a Jersey Street resurgence, the futures odds might provide plenty of value for the Olde Towne Team.
The Red Sox obviously are doing all they can to put the nightmare of 2020 behind them. Boston had one of baseball’s worst teams in the pandemic-shortened season. But with a seemingly normal full slate in front of them, and with Alex Cora back in the dugout, it’s not crazy to be bullish on the Red Sox in 2021.
If that’s the case, and Boston rebounds, maybe there’s more value to be had betting on Red Sox MVP futures than simply betting on the club to make the playoffs or win the division. Obviously, a lot has to break your way, but a potential 40-1 payout is tantalizing.
For a Red Sox player to win MVP, it would require bucking some betting trends.
The reigning AL MVP, Jose Abreu, won the award at 100-1 odds. But don’t get carried away thinking a long shot will win this year. No disrespect to Abreu, who had a fine year, but a 60-game schedule meant award season could be fluky. Typically, the MVP is somewhat to be expected, as the odds show:
2020: Jose Abreu, 100-1
2019: Mike Trout, EVEN
2018: Mookie Betts, 20-1
2017: Jose Altuve, 10-1
2016: Trout, 4-1
2015: Josh Donaldson, 15-1
2014: Trout, 5-1
2013: Miguel Cabrera, 7-1
2012: Miguel Cabrera, 2-1
So, if you take out that 100-1 last year, there’s no one who’s come from 20-1 or worse in the last 10 years to win the AL MVP Award. And per the Fanduel Sportsbook odds, no Red Sox player currently falls into that category.
That said, there’s still a case to be made for each of Boston’s MVP “hopefuls,” for lack of a better term.
Xander Bogaerts, 35-1: This is Bogaerts’ team now. If the Red Sox turn things around, it’s probably going to be because Bogaerts is leading the way. Bogaerts’ play stood out in an otherwise terrible 2020 campaign. Only Tim Anderson of the Chicago White Sox had a higher wRC+ than Bogaerts (130) among AL shortstops. Bogaerts’ 13.6 wins above replacement (Fangraphs) since the beginning of the 2018 season ranks 13th in all of baseball. He’s just so solid across the board, and a career year paired with a Red Sox resurgence would put him in the MVP conversation.
Rafael Devers, 40-1: It was a tough start to the 2020 season for Devers, who hit just .183 through the first 21 games. But he returned to form over the last 36 games of the season, when he put up a 40-home run, 170-RBI pace while hitting .307. Yeah, those are MVP numbers. The 24-year-old could go a long way in establishing himself among the sport’s elite with a full season — especially if he’s fully healthy.
J.D. Martinez, 60-1: Perhaps no player on the Red Sox better represented the 2020 misery than Martinez, whose .680 OPS was his lowest since his Houston Astros days. Martinez still is working on some changes and improvements that haven’t yet materialized in spring training results. Maybe it’s time to buy low then, because in a loaded lineup, like this one could be, Martinez has 50-home run potential. Being a DH does hurt him, though.
Alex Verdugo, 80-1: The Red Sox sure would feel better about this on-the-fly rebuild if Verdugo contends for an MVP in his first “full” season in Boston. He was great in his first year with the Sox with room to further improve. If he takes “the jump” in 2021, he also has the intangibles that you can build storylines and narratives around, which usually does play a role in determining MVP.