We're less than 50 days from the start of the 2016 baseball season. Regular season win totals have been posted in Las Vegas and online sportsbooks are starting to see more action trickle in on the World Series futures.
The Chicago Cubs will enter the season as the World Series favorite (+400) but will they really end their 108-year drought? They look improved over the team that won 97 games last year and not just because a lot of their youngsters like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo are a year older; they also added Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey to round out the roster.
Next in line are the San Francisco Giants (+750) and New York Mets (+800), which means that the National League has the top three favorites to win it all.
The Boston Red Sox (+1200) and Toronto Blue Jays (+1200) are the co-favorites in the American League after both teams experienced very different offseasons. The Red Sox blew the bank on a slew of major moves headlined by the signing of staff ace David Price. They also bolstered their bullpen significantly with closer Craig Kimbrel, who has more saves and a lower ERA (1.70) than any other pitcher in baseball over the last five years, and quality setup man Carson Smith.
Hitting wasn't the problem last season; Boston finished fourth in runs scored. If the pitching is markedly improved - as expected - they'll be a frontrunner.
As for the Blue Jays, they had an odd offseason with the loss of Price and general manager Alex Anthopoulos. However, they still added Jesse Chavez, kept Marco Estrada and added a quality bullpen arm in Drew Storen. Pitching - both starting and relief - is a concern but the Jays still boast one of the best lineups in the majors, so they'll be in play.
Behind the Red Sox and Jays are the Los Angeles Dodgers (+1400), Washington Nationals (+1600) and Kansas City Royals (+1600). The Royals are the defending champs and have made it to the World Series in back-to-back years, but keep in mind that no team has won consecutive World Series championships since the New York Yankees in 1999-2000.
One team that has sleeper potential is the Arizona Diamondbacks (+2000), who had a remarkable offseason. They added pitchers Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller to bolster a team that already has star hitters Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock.
In the American League, Houston (+1800) could be a contender after an experience-building, coming-of-age season last year. Their young roster grew a lot and should be even better with another Rookie of the Year candidate in A.J. Reed joining a team that's a year the wiser.