As the 2020-21 MLB offseason limps forward, I’m always keeping an eye on futures lines and continuously calculating my own perceived value.
The term ‘value’ means different things to different people and opinions are certain to vary. Some believe that value only lies in the middle/back of the pack, but that’s not exactly true. That’s not to say that taking mid-to-long-shots never pays off – and I like throwing calculated darts at long shots as much as the next guy – but it’s far more likely a team near the top of the odds chart is where the money will end up being made. That’s the risk/reward decision we continue to wrestle with in this industry.
Take the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers for example. They were National League Pennant and World Series favorites before the first pitch of the 2020 season. Lo and behold, the Dodgers paced all of baseball with a 43-17 regular-season record before marching their way to their first World Series since 1988, essentially going wire-to-wire as the best team in baseball, as the odds suggested they would. An NLDS scare against the Braves aside, the Dodgers managed the feat with relative ease in a season that had the favorites set up to fail.
The moral of the story? Just because teams have far shorter odds near the top of the board doesn’t mean they don’t have value. They’re certainly far more likely to win, after all, and you made darn good money on the Dodgers last season as rough +500 World Series favorites prior to the 2020 campaign.
That leads me to the 2021 New York Yankees futures. As per BetOnline, only those Dodgers (+400) sport shorter 2021 World Series Odds than the Bronx Bombers who currently sit at +700 when it comes to the Fall Classic and heavy +300 favorites when it comes to taking down the American League Pennant.
There is plenty offseason to go. It’s been a drag to this point, but we’re starting to see some trades and free-agent deals roll in as we approach the Holiday season while things should certainly ramp up in the New Year.
We don’t know what the Yankees have in store for the remainder of the offseason, but I want to dive into their odds value as it stands today. More specifically, is there value to be had, or not? Let’s find out.
Pros & Cons of Betting Yankees 2021 Futures
These Bronx Bombers are certainly ensuring the accuracy of their label.
Last season, the Yankees ranked fifth with 94 home runs and fourth with a .200 ISO on the season. The year prior, they came one home run shy of the Minnesota Twins for sharing a new MLB home run record and also fell ever so slightly behind the Twinkies with a second-ranked .222 ISO.
Keep in mind they also did that while dealing with a laundry list of injuries. When it comes to the power department, having Giancarlo Stanton miss 181 of a possible 222 games over the last two seasons didn’t help. While Stanton missed 81.5% of the Yankees’ games over the last two years, fellow bash brother Aaron Judge missed 41.4% of his club’s contests over that same time. With healthier seasons from that duo, the Yankees would certainly hold down the home run record.
YANKEES HAVE FIVE HOME RUNS THIS INNING!
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 18, 2020
That said, combine the 2019 and 2020 seasons and the Yankees rank first with 400 home runs and a . 217 ISO. I don’t care what else you do, if you hit the ball out of the ball park more than any other team in baseball, you’re going to find success. Keep in mind 2020 home run king Luke Voit plays for these Yankees.
Over that same time, that power has led the Yankees to a league-high .345 wOBA, giving them a strong case as the best offense in baseball from 2019-2020.
We don’t know what will happen with DJ Lemahieu and his pop, but with Stanton, Judge, Voit, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier returning next season, it would be shocking not to see the Yankees at or near the top of the power charts again in 2021
As noted, the Yankees have had a difficult time staying healthy of late. In fact, their injury bug was so bad in 2019 that they overhauled their training staff after sending a big-league record 30 players to the Injured List that season.
The new staff didn’t exactly thrive in 2020 as not a single Yankees position player played in all 60 games. Voit came closest with 56 games played followed by Hicks with 54, but only four Yankees players played in at least 50 games last season.
The Yankees miraculously won the AL East by seven games despite the non-stop injury woes of 2019, but they played a part in having the tables turned on them in 2020, losing the division by seven games to the Tampa Bay Rays.
When it comes to Stanton, he just can’t be relied upon to stay healthy. General manager Brian Cashman is doing everything in his power to keep his slugger healthy, including limiting him to strict designated hitter duties moving forward, making him an expensive one at that.
Injuries can vary from year to year, and there’s very little way to prognosticate injuries moving forward. That said, an inability to stay healthy is becoming a trend for these Yankees, and the division is too good to be without your best players on a regular basis.
His Name is Cole
In short, having one of the best pitchers on the planet rocking your uniform is always a pro.
Perhaps Gerrit Cole wasn’t quite as dominant in 2020 as he was in 2019 with the Houston Astros, but let’s not split hairs over a 2.84 ERA and an 11.59 K/9. His peripherals dipped, but the results were there in spades.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) August 15, 2020
Of course, when you are raking in $324M over a nine-year span, expectations are going to be high, and even without fans in the stands, the Bronx is a tough place to live up to expectations, just ask Stanton.
He’ll look to keep the ball in the park at a rate far superior to his career-worst 1.73 HR/9 from last season, but over his final four regular-season starts, Cole posted a 1.00 ERA before posting a 2.49 ERA along with a 14.92 K/9 across three postseason starts.
He’ll look to continue those fine late-season results into 2021, but Cole is far from the team’s biggest concern and potentially their biggest asset heading towards next season.
This is a question that will be answered throughout the offseason, but the Yankees have – so far – lost Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ from last year’s rotation to free agency. In a relatively thin starting pitching market, in terms of quality, behind headliner Trevor Bauer, Tanaka will be sought after and his return to the only MLB franchise he’s even known is anything but a sure thing.
Paxton endured plenty of injury woes himself in his two-year stay in the Bronx, and his 6.64 ERA was disastrous in an injury-shortened five starts in 2020, but he was plenty reliable in 2019, working to a 3.82 ERA/3.86 FIP with an 11.11 K/9 in a career-high 29 starts in 2019.
Happ has his own struggles last season at times, but the point here revolves around the question of depth. Currently, it’s some combination of Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, Michael King and Domingo German slated in behind Cole in that Yankees rotation with former ace Luis Severino scheduled to join the group sometime in June or July coming off February Tommy John Surgery.
Of course, it would be downright ridiculous if the Yankees didn’t add at least a starter, or probably two. Severino’s return will be akin to midseason trade-deadline acquisition, but results vary upon returning from major elbow surgery, and Severino has thrown all of 12 regular-season innings since the 2018 season. He’ll be eased back in.
We’ll give the Yanks some time to figure out this situation, but for now we’ll call this a major need for a team that absolutely needs to bounce back and challenge their heated rival Tampa Bay Rays, or maybe even the upstart Toronto Blue Jays, for division supremacy next season.
All offseason long, you’re going to hear about revenue losses from the 2020 season hindering teams’ abilities to invest heavily in the free agent market. Maybe that’s true for some teams, but it should absolutely not be for a Yankees team that annually boasts World Series expectations.
Sure, the Yankees currently have a little north of $166M committed to their 2021 payroll, as per Spotrac, good for the second-highest mark in the league. I’ll counter that point with two others:
- Despite the heavy payroll relative to the remainder of the league, the Yankees are still almost $44M under the $210M luxury tax threshold that pretty much every team in the league is mindful of
- I mentioned the Yankees ranked first in the power department of late, but where else are they tops in the league? That would be change in payroll where the Yankees lead all of baseball with more than $80M coming off the books with the league average at just $31M, as per an interesting payroll piece done by Craig Edwards over at FanGraphs
So, while the payroll is high, the Yankees have plenty of room to spend. While billionaire owners cry afoul over financial losses from 2020, the reality is plenty of those losses are made up by television contracts, both local and national. We don’t know as to the extent, but it’s safe to say the revenue losses from last season aren’t as bad as they are being portrayed, not to mention massive gains from previous seasons.
When you lose the ALDS on a late, Game 5 homer off your closer against a heated division rival that whooped your rear end in the regular season, upgrading – and spending – is going to happen, especially when it comes to the deep pockets of the New York Yankees.
— The GIF Guy (@IHaveFourBalls) October 10, 2020
AL East Rising
For a brief moment, it looked as if they once-vaunted AL East was regressing and falling behind some other divisions when it came to the powerhouse groups in the big leagues.
That said, the East sent three teams to the expanded playoffs last year, and it appears things aren’t going to get any easier any time soon within the division.
The Rays lost Charlie Morton to the Atlanta Braves on the open market, and the most recent rumor out of Tropicana is Blake Snell hitting the trade block as his contract is becoming too expensive for the low-budget Rays. Whether Snell ends up being dealt prior to the 2021 campaign remains to be seen, but it’s a realistic scenario at this point.
However, it’s the Rays. I mean, come on. They annually have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball yet led the AL with a 40-20 record last season and are 68 games over .500 since the 2018 season. Since eliminating the “Devil” from their nickname prior to 2008, the Rays have been over .500 in nine of 13 seasons and at least 18 games over .500 in eight of those seasons, if we include their pace from the shortened 2020 season.
And then there’s the Blue Jays, a team many believe are going to be among the most active on both the trade and free-agent market this offseason. The team has been linked to top names such as Bauer and George Springer on the free-agent market while they’ve also been rumored as a suitor for current Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, who the team intends to move before the 2021 season.
The Jays are coming off a postseason appearance after finishing 32-28 last season, just one game behind the Yankees. Don’t sleep on the Jays.
The Orioles showed some fight last season and while the Red Sox suffered through a brutal season, their pitching will get healthier in 2021 and the lineup remains fully capable. With a drastically decreased payroll, expect former Rays executive Chaim Bloom to use some re-discovered resources to carefully allocate across his team with immediate improvement at the forefront of his mind.
The AL East is going to be difficult. As heavy AL Pennant favorites in 2020, the Yankees didn’t even win their division, and lost it by seven games, in a 60-game season. They were handled by the Rays, and the path back to the top of the division in 2020 won’t be any clearer this time around.
Is There Value?
Not in my opinion.
What we did just now was go through the pros and cons of a decision so we have all the relevant information in front of us. Sure, there’s probably more of each and perhaps yours differ from mine.
But too me, the cons outweigh the pros, especially as heavy favorites.
I can’t rely on their ability to stay healthy. That’s something they’ll have to prove as the season moves along. I don’t like where the rotation currently stands behind Cole, and while we need to give them the offseason to address that need, they’ll need to add a couple significant starters to get me on board with that group.
I’m also not a fan of the Yankees clearly being better than that of the Rays or even the Jays. Both teams are going to give them all they can handle, and perhaps more.
The power is going to be there, Cole is certainly very much elite and the team does have some financial flexibility that I believe they’ll utilize to upgrade the rotation and perhaps re-sign LeMahieu, their MVP over his two-year stay in the Bronx.
There’s plenty to like, but there’s plenty of obstacles as well, the latter of which appear far too great to bet on the Yankees as short AL Pennant favorites and 2021 World Series second-favorites to boot.