The Houston Astros received unprecedented punishment from MLB and subsequently fired their manager and general manager, in addition to losing ace Gerrit Cole in free agency, yet oddsmakers still expect the team to flirt with 100 wins and contend for a World Series title.
On Monday, the Astros dismissed manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. That followed suspensions by MLB after it found evidence that the team had used technology to cheat during its 2017 World Series season. Yet Caesars director of trading Jeff Davis says he subtracted only half a win for the unusual winter.
"I just don't want to read too much into [perceived advantages of sign stealing]. I would rather take under bets against a really good roster than overreact to something that might be nothing," Davis told ESPN. "Hinch is very well-regarded as one of the best managers in baseball, so he's got to be worth something. However, the players still have to play and it's a pretty damn good roster."
Despite losing Cole, the defending American League champions return reigning Cy Young Justin Verlander, MVP runner-up Alex Bregman, former World Series MVP George Springer and Rookie of the Year Yordan Alvarez. They figure to lead a team that's favored to win the AL West for the fourth straight season.
On top of the rare suspensions, a sport synonymous with historical numbers is witnessing oddsmaking history. The Yankees have a season win total of 101.5 at FanDuel and William Hill, which is tied for the second-highest number ever offered. SportsOddsHistory.com ranks the 1999 Yankees (104.5) and 2005 Yankees (101.5) atop the list.
The Yankees are World Series favorites (+350) after signing arguably baseball's best pitcher, Cole, to a record $324 million deal in December.
"This team could win 100 games even without Cole," Davis said, after posting the Yanks with 101 wins. "If they stay healthy, I don't see why they couldn't reach the all-time mark [116 wins by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners]. They just don't have any holes."
The Detroit Tigers also made betting history with a total at William Hill of 54.5 wins, an all-time low. They managed just 47 wins last season and had the 15th-worst win percentage in the modern era (since 1900). Caesars has posted 55.5 for both the Tigers and Baltimore Orioles, who won 54 games last year.
"How much lower can you really go?" Davis said. "I think the Tigers' floor is lower than the Orioles' floor. This team has a couple of guys that can actually be good, but the Tigers' offense just doesn't have anyone whose ceiling is high."
The Dodgers top the National League with 99 wins and are favorites to win the NL West for the eighth straight year. But they did fail to land marquee free agents Cole and Anthony Rendon (Angels), while also losing Cy Young runner-up Hyun-Jin Ryu in free agency to the Toronto Blue Jays.
"They were a very good team last year that won 106 games with largely the same roster. They're just the class of the National League," Davis said.
The Nationals upset the Dodgers last year in the division series and eventually captured the World Series. Caesars posted their total at 89.5. In addition to losing Rendon, the Nationals also reside in what could be the most competitive division. The Nats (92), Atlanta Braves (92), New York Mets (86.5) and Philadelphia Phillies (85.5) are separated by just 6.5 wins, while the Miami Marlins are the NL East outlier (63.5).