Cardinals favored to win NL Central
LAS VEGAS, NV (The Spread) – After representing the National League in last year’s World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals will head into the 2014 season as the clear favorite to win the NL Central.
According to oddsmakers from online sports book Bovada.lv, the Cardinals are -175 money line favorites to win the NL Central Division this year, while the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates are both +375. The Milwaukee Brewers, meanwhile, are +1200 to win the division while the Chicago Cubs have the longest odds at +3300.
The Cardinals won the division last year with a 97-65 record while the Pirates finished second with a 94-68 mark. The Reds finished third with 90 wins, the Brewers finished fourth with 74 wins and the Cubs were once again a disaster, winning just 66 games and posting a .407 winning percentage.
The Cardinals made a couple of moves this offseason to boost their speed and offense. They acquired Peter Bourjos from the Angels in exchange for 2011 World Series hero David Freese, and also inked Jhonny Peralta to a $53 million contract to be the starting shortstop. Peralta doesn’t have the range or overall defensive prowess that Pete Kozma does, but he represents a massive upgrade offensively.
One could make the argument that the Pirates and Reds took a step back this offseason. Cincinnati lost Shin-Soo Choo in free agency and will replace him with speedy youngster Billy Hamilton, who won’t come close to getting on base as much as Choo did a year ago. The Reds did sign Skip Schumaker for depth, however, so at least they do have a veteran option in center if Hamilton fails. Chris Heisey will also be in the mix for time in the outfield.
The team that might be a sleeper is the Brewers, who signed Matt Garza to complement Yovani Gallardo and Kyle Lohse in the starting rotation. They also boast a decent lineup thanks to the return of Ryan Braun, who will be surrounded by Carlos Gomez, Jean Segura and Aramis Ramirez. The key might be Gallardo, who needs to pitch like an ace if Milwaukee wants to compete for at least a wild card spot.
The Cardinals are 10/1 to win the 2014 World Series while the Reds are 22/1 and the Pirates are 28/1. The Cubs and Brewers are both 50/1, respectively, to win this year’s Fall Classic.