The November 1st deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to their impending free agents has passed, and now that free agency has officially kicked off, we are going to take a look at five players that will change the World Series betting odds when they are signed. Every year we see teams that emerge as World Series favorites by acquiring new players.

Looking back to just last season, we can see the value of teams being active in the free agent market. Franchise changing players like Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Yasmani Grandal, Mike Moustakas, Marcell Ozuna, Nick Castellanos, and Hyun-jin Ryu all singed with new teams in 2020, and all of them had an immediate impact on the field.

Ryu was a Cy Young Award finalist in the American League this year. Cole finished with an ERA of 2.84, a 2.2 WAR, and his 7 wins were third-most in the Majors Leagues. Marcell Ozuna nearly won the NL triple crown, leading the league in homers and RBI and finishing 3rd in batting average. Yasmani Grandal was a finalist for the Gold Glove behind the plate for the Chicago White Sox. Moustakas and Castellanos helped lead the Cincinnati Reds to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. And despite the Los Angeles Angels not playing well this year, Anthony Rendon had a strong year, posting a 1.8 WAR.

As you can see, if a team isn’t afraid to go out and spend a couple of bucks, they can bring in players that will produce right away, and that can turn a team from fringe contenders to World Series favorites in a hurry. In this article, we are going to take a look at five free agent players this year that could have a major effect on the World Series betting odds. Let’s get started!

George Springer

George Springer has been a stud in the outfield for the Houston Astros the last several years. Springer has all the tools you would want out of a leadoff hitter as he hits for average and power, and his plus speed helps him on the base paths and makes him one of the best right fielders in the game. One thing that has been great about Springer in his time with Houston is how consistent he has been.

Prior to the shortened 2020 regular season, Springer had made three consecutive AL All-Star teams and finished with MVP votes in two of those years. He is good for a career .270 batting average and has a 162-game average of 35 home runs, 93 RBI, and 116 runs scored. There just aren’t many players in the game that are going to be able to produce like that year in and year out.

Springer is expected to garner a lot of heavy interest in the free agent market and is nearly certain to sign a multi-year deal worth in excess of $100 million. Springer is still in his prime at 31-years old and should sustain his All-Star level of production for at least the next four or five years. There are a lot of players out there that are going to be great for you, but don’t have a long shelf life, think guys like slugger Nelson Cruz. But Springer isn’t one of them, and he should bring value to his new team for years to come.

The stench of the Astros cheating scandal is all over Springer, but at the end of the day, baseball is going to move on from the scandal, and Springer would love to be wearing a new jersey when they finally allow fans back in the stands. There are too many teams to list that would be interested in Springer, but teams that stick out to me as the favorites right now are the New York Mets and the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Mets have a brand-new owner that is the richest in baseball and is looking to make a big splash in the Big Apple. Signing Springer would be a great way to announce his presence with authority. And in Philly, they are likely going to lose JT Realmuto, as he is expected to decline their qualifying offer, and that opens up some cash to go after Springer and put him next to superstar Bryce Harper in the outfield.

JT Realmuto

Speaking of JT Realmuto, he is next on my list of free agents, and I value him highly for two main reasons. One, the kid is a monster behind the plate, with a Gold Glove and a powerful bat. And two, catcher is really light on talent these days, and at a position that is so important, there aren’t very many options. That makes Realmuto a prized possession for several teams. There might not be a single team in the game right now that wouldn’t rather have Realmuto calling pitches for them than whoever they currently have playing backstop.

Realmuto was only 29 in 2020, and while that is a bit on the old side for an everyday catcher, they do break down much quicker than any other position; he still should have several prime seasons left in his career. Realmuto was an All-Star in his final season with the Miami Marlins in 2018 and followed that up by being an All-Star for the Phillies in 2019. This year, he was again very strong as he was tied for the Major League lead in home runs by a catcher with 11.

Most of the hype surrounding Realmuto is about his bat, and his 162-game average of 21 homers, 79 RBI, and .278 batting average makes him the most consistent hitting catcher in the game right now. But what a lot of people don’t talk about is his defense. Realmuto has the highest caught stealing percentage in the game going back to 2018, and he is an elite pitch framer, a skill that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves.

When you look at the teams in the Realmuto sweepstakes, one team sticks out to me as very interesting, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have had Yadier Molina as their catcher and face of the franchise for a whopping 17 years!

But Molina is a free agent, and his bat has really started to fall off in the last couple of years. The Cardinals clearly value a strong catcher, and JT Realmuto would give them just that. Cardinals fans would hate to say goodbye to Yadi, but if they can bring in Realmuto, it will give them the only player in the game right now that is capable of stepping into his big shoes and filling them.

Trevor Bauer

When it comes to winning a world championship, you absolutely have to ace an ace starting pitcher. Looking back at the last five years, all of the winning teams had at least one ace, and most of them had two! It is a must-have if you are going to win in the postseason, and there just aren’t enough quality arms to go around. The biggest free agent pitcher available in 2020, is Trevor Bauer.

Bauer loves to cause a lot of controversy with his social media posts and funny interviews, but don’t let all that noise distract you from the fact that this guy is an animal on the mound. Bauer has had success in both leagues, and his 162-game average season consists of 200+ innings, 217 Ks, and 13 wins. Bauer hasn’t posted a K/9 rate of under double digits in six straight seasons and is consistently amongst the top strikeout pitchers in the game.

In 2020, Bauer was absolutely filthy, as he posted an NL best 1.73 ERA. His 100 Ks were second in the league, trailing only back to back Cy Young Award winner, Jacob deGrom. Bauer is a finalist for the NL Cy Young Award this year, and while the race is a close one between him, deGrom, and Yu Darvish, Bauer is currently the betting favorite to take home pitching’s highest honor.

It is rare that a reigning Cy Young Award winner is available, and his name has been popping up in rumors for just about every contending team in the league. Bauer will turn 30 next season, and he should still have plenty of gas left in the tank for whatever team hands out a truckload of cash to sign him. I don’t rate Bauer quite as highly as most people who have him as the top free agent of this 2020 class because I know how volatile starting pitchers can be.

Bauer has made it clear that he wants to be a hired gun for a team that is ready to win now. The team that I see going after Bauer the hardest is the New York Yankees. The Yankees had a lot of issues on the mound last year, and with James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka both free agents, the Bronx Bombers are going to have to go out and get Gerrit Cole some help in the rotation. Can you imagine having to face Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer back to back in a playoff series? Yikes.

DJ LeMahieu

All DJ LeMahieu does is hit the baseball. Most of his career was spent in Colorado, with people pointing to the thin Denver air to explain his eyepopping stats. But DJ was never a power hitter that took advantage of that rarified Rocky Mountain air. Instead, he was a guy that loved to find gaps and go for extra bases, without much power. The misguided hate on his hitting ability led to him only getting a 2-year deal worth $24 million with the New York Yankees.

What did LeMahieu do in those two seasons in New York? Oh, he just went out and hit a combined .336, took home a batting title, and hit 36 home runs in just 195 games. DJ nearly took home the AL MVP last season, finishing 4th, and is a finalist again this year. His .364 batting average was an absurd 42 points higher than the next closest player in the American League.

Even though he has been on a tear since leaving Colorado, the market on LeMahieu seems lighter than it should be once again. This guy is the consummate professional at the plate, and people tend to forget how versatile he can be on defense. He can play at any base in the infield and has three Gold Gloves on his resume. No matter where you play him, he is going to bring his new team a ton of value, both at the plate and in the field.

When you look at the market for LeMahieu, he will end up being a value play when you compare him to some of these other names. I doubt he will get a nine-figure deal, meaning that even some teams that don’t have huge money to spend could add him to their roster. There are two teams currently in the running for LeMahieu’s services that intrigue me, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels.

The Dodgers are going to lose Justin Turner, and LeMahieu would slot right into the hard-hitting Dodgers lineup. This would be a rich getting richer situation as the Boys in Blue are coming off of their first world title in a generation and are already the heavy favorites in the National League for 2021. But Magic Johnson and company love to spend money, and adding DJ would be a sneaky good move.

As for the other team in Hollywood, the Angels are always looking to dump cash and are the team most likely to overpay for LeMahieu if a bidding war breaks out. Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, and the list goes on, and on, of players the Angels have signed to enormous deals in the past. With their big brother Dodgers stealing all the attention away in LA, the Angels need something to kick start the franchise. My gut tells me he ends up in the City of Angels, just not sure which team.

Nelson Cruz

If I was writing an article about which players would make the biggest difference for the next five years, Nelson Cruz wouldn’t be on this list. I would likely end up going with a guy like Marcell Ozuna or Marcus Stroman if I focused on the future. But this article is focused only on the 2021 World Series betting odds, and I don’t see any player that could come in and help a team hit more effectively in the short-term and win games now, than Nelson Cruz.

Somehow age hasn’t caught up to Cruz yet, as he is still punishing baseballs at 40 years old. In his two-year stint with the Minnesota Twins, he helped Minnesota break the all-time single-season home run record in 2019 and has smashed 57 dingers in just 173 games for the Twinkies. That is barely over one full season’s worth of games, and his power has been prolific. Cruz leads all players in home runs since 2014, averaging over 40 homers a season in that span.

Cruz has been relegated to a designated hitter at this point in his career, so he doesn’t make a lot of sense to go to a National League team. He could play some first base or right field if needed, but his true value comes in the batter’s box, so I would think that he will attract most of his interest from the American League. Cruz is looking for a 2-year deal but would probably take a 1-year deal if the price was right.

Heading back to Minnesota seems to make the most sense on the surface for Cruz, but one team that is taking a hard look at Cruz that I think would be a great fit would be the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays are painfully short on power hitters, and a guy like Nelson Cruz would bring them instant offense and immediately put them back towards the top of the favorites to win the AL pennant in back to back seasons.

The Rays despise spending money, so I can’t imagine they are going to offer Cruz much of a deal, but I could see Cruz taking the bait on a 1-year deal in the $15 million range to go ring chasing in the twilight of his career. The fact that Cruz doesn’t need a big multi-year deal tells me that he would be a player that would fit in with the Rays stingy ways. If Nelson does end up taking his talents to Tampa Bay, Rays fans just need to make sure that manager Kevin Cash doesn’t pinch-hit for him in game six of the World Series with the game on the line. Too soon, Rays fans?

Wrap Up

Major League Baseball likes to ease into the free agent season. Unlike the NFL and the NBA, where free agents start coming off the board almost immediately, baseball goes at a slower pace. We will start seeing signings here and there, but the action might not fully heat up until the annual MLB winter meetings.

No matter how long the market takes to materialize, you need to make sure you are paying attention, as the offseason is when World Series championships are won and lost. Thanks for reading, and make sure that you stay tuned to TheSportsGeek all offseason long, where we bring you all of the Major League Baseball news you need to make money betting on baseball in 2021!