The MLB trade deadline is safely in the rearview mirror and we're set for a furious run to the end of the regular season. The playoff races are going to be the most fun thing to track down the stretch, but there are also the individual award battles. Let's zero in on those here with another odds check in.
(All odds from Caesars Sportsbook as of Aug. 9)
- Paul Goldschmidt, Cardinals: -135
- Austin Riley, Braves: +400
- Freddie Freeman, Dodgers: +700
- Nolan Arenado, Cardinals: +1500
- Pete Alonso, Mets: +2000
The field is much more open than the AL below, which is fun. Manny Machado has fallen down to +2500 after being one of the favorites for much of the season. His new teammate, Juan Soto, is +3500. I don't think anyone below that threshold has a real shot. Ronald Acuña, Jr. (+10000) is talented enough to get that hot on a playoff team, but he missed 30-plus games and Riley is clearly going to stay in front of him. Bryce Harper (+25000) could get that hot, but by the time he comes back from injury (likely late August), he'll have missed far too many games -- and the Phillies have played well without him.
Also, I should mention Sandy Alcantara (+12500). Pitchers winning the award is rare these days, but it can happen. Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw each have one MVP. Alcantara has thrown 158 1/3 innings (second place is Aaron Nola with 144 2/3) and has a paltry 1.88 ERA (Tony Gonsolin is second at 2.30). Such an overwhelming gap in those categories should get him a look.
Longshot value pick
I've been on Machado since early May and he's now +2500. That would be a very nice pick. That lineup has added Juan Soto and will soon add Fernando Tatis, Jr. in front of him while Josh Bell and Brandon Drury now hit behind him. He's in a nice spot to rack up some huge run production down the stretch, even if the Padres have been terrible for the last five games.
Are those odds enough of a longshot to qualify here, though? I'll take a longer pick: Francisco Lindor at +6500. In his last 27 games, Lindor is hitting .349/.422/.594 with six doubles, a triple, six homers, 20 RBI, 22 runs and has absolutely resembled that player that was the heart and soul of Cleveland for a stretch. He's up to fifth in Fangraphs' version of WAR and if he stayed this hot for the rest of the season, that's plenty of time to get the numbers in order. There's a complication there with Alonso being his teammate and on pace to drive home 140 runs with 43 homers, but this was a longshot pick. We need things to break right. There's a world where Lindor slingshots past Alonso.
Pick to win
I believe Goldschmidt would win it right now. His slash line (.332/.415/.614) is just so overwhelming with the 26 homers and 84 RBI. The Cardinals are now in first place and he's meant so much to that lineup, remaining a consistent anchor despite lots of changing parts and inconsistency around him. There are good cases for all of the top five here, too, obviously.
I'm gonna go with Freeman (+700), though. Since June 15, he's slashing .374/.438/.632 and he's at .324/.400/.526 overall. The Dodgers have dealt with injuries and poor performance to a decent portion of their lineup through the year. He's been the lynchpin. They are going to end up with the best record in baseball and probably a franchise record in wins. Given all that plus the story of him going from the World Series champion Braves to the Dodgers, I think there's a good shot he stays this hot and that nets him his second MVP in three seasons.
- Aaron Judge, Yankees: -650
- Shohei Ohtani, Angels: +450
- Yordan Alvarez, Astros: +4000
- José Ramírez, Guardians: +6000
- Vladimir Guerrero, Blue Jays: +10000
Rafael Devers, Red Sox: +10000
As can be seen, it's a two-horse race. Judge is hitting .303/.391/.677 (200 OPS+) with 19 doubles, 44 home runs, 98 RBI, 93 runs, 11 steals without having been caught and 6.7 WAR. He leads the league in runs, hits, home runs, RBI, slugging, OPS, OPS+, total bases and WAR.
Ohtani, thanks to his pitching and hitting exploits, is second in WAR, but it's a decent gap down to 5.1. He's thrown 105 innings and has been Cy Young-caliber. He's been a great hitter, too. The degree of difficulty in pulling this off far exceeds the work anyone else in baseball is doing. There are two factors going against Ohtani, though. First up, his team is awful. Since the 27-17 start, the Angels are the worst team in baseball at 20-46. Now, there's only so much Ohtani can do about that and there's a legitimate argument to be made that he's proven even more valuable during this stretch (at one point they lost 13 in a row when he wasn't the starting pitcher but won all three of his starts in that same stretch). Regardless, I think this will hurt his vote total and I'm speaking toward winning the award, not my personal feelings. On that front, the second thing working against Ohtani with the voting body at large, I think, is voter fatigue. We already gushed over him doing the two-way thing all last season and he won MVP over an excellent candidate in Guerrero. Some voters just get tired of playing the same song again, even if it means taking for granted one of the most amazing things we've ever seen in this sport.
Plus, Judge's outrageous numbers are right there. Maybe I should have said there were three things working against Ohtani -- a bad team, voter fatigue and the existence of Aaron Judge.
Regardless, all roads lead to Judge right now.
Longshot value pick
It appears anyone but Judge and Ohtani qualify as longshots at this juncture. If you want to bet on both getting hurt within the next week, there would be an opening for one of these two beasts:
- Alvarez is on pace for 44 home runs and 144 RBI while hitting .300/.407/.638 on perhaps the best team in the league in the Astros. He's the top dog in that lineup and easily the most fearsome hitter in baseball this side of Judge.
- Ramírez is on pace for 55 doubles, 32 home runs, 133 RBI, 21 steals and a 155 OPS+. His Guardians are only a game back in the AL Central and a hot streak down the stretch while they win the division is possible.
I'm going with Ramírez (+6000).
The value is terrible, but it really looks like the only way Judge doesn't win this thing is if he gets injured within the next two weeks. Maybe the best pick is not betting this thing at all, though, given Judge's injury history and having to lay -650 just to pick him. There's risk here with not much reward.
If I was forced to pick just one, of course, it's Judge. He's currently running away with it and you throw value out of the window if you're trying to win. There's no value on a losing ticket, but winning is winning. If you really must pick one, take Judge.