An MVP on the Move, and Other MLB Off-Season Wagers
On Thursday, Major League Baseball handed out its final two pieces of postseason hardware, awarding its two Most Valuable Player Award winners.
Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. took home all 30 first-place votes in the National League, and Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers got all 30 second-place votes.
This season, Acuña became the first player in Major League Baseball history to hit 40 home runs and steal 70 bases in the same season, finishing the year with 41 home runs and 73 stolen bases. The 25-year-old Venezuelan is under contract through 2026, with team options for 2027 and 2028.
In the American League, Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani was also a unanimous winner, taking all 30 of the first-lace votes. Corey Seager and Marcus Semien of the World Series-winning Texas Rangers finished second and third. Ohtani also won the award in 2021.
As a hitter, Ohtani hit 44 home runs and had 95 RBI. He led all of baseball in slugging percentage (.654) and OPS (1.066). He finished second in the league in on-base percentage (.416). As a pitcher, he was 10-5 in 23 starts, finishing with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts.
Ohtani’s wins above replacement (WAR) was a baseball-high 10.1. The highest ever recorded WAR in a single season was 14.1 by Babe Ruth in 1923.
Ohtani on the Move?
When the MLB trade deadline came and went over the summer, it was somewhat surprising that the Angels hadn’t traded away their superstar and upcoming free agent. Instead, they opted to keep him for the remainder of the season in hopes that they could hold on to Ohtani for 2024 and beyond.
Online baseball bettors don’t see that as a good bet for the Angels. Bovada.lv is taking bets on where Ohtani will be on Opening Day in 2024, and the Angels are paying +800. The favorite at the moment is the Dodgers, paying even money. Also in the mix are the Chicago Cubs at +400, the San Francisco Giants at +550, and the New York Mets and Seattle Mariners at +750 each.
The Dodgers do make a lot of sense. Ohtani would get to stay in Southern California, play for a World Series contender, and perform for a team with a history of well-supported Japanese players. Hideo Nomo was one of the most popular players in Japan in 1994. He moved to the Dodgers in 1995 and became a National League All-Star in his first year. In 2014, he was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.
If Ohtani doesn’t return to the Angels, he will become the fifth reigning MVP to switch teams the season after winning the award, and only the second to leave via free agency. The other was Barry Bonds, who after winning the MVP award in 1992 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, signed with the Giants the following off-season.
Juan Soto’s Next Team
Juan Soto is a future MVP, and he is a future free agent. His contract with the San Diego Padres currently runs through the 2024 season. He’s only 24-years-old, he just hit a career-high 35 home runs, and this is the final season he is arbitration eligible. That means a big raise is coming, and the Padres may be unwilling or unable to pay it.
BetUS.com is taking wagers on where he will play in 2024 (if not the Padres), and the New York Yankees are the favorites at +200. The Mets are +250, the Cubs are +500, and the Boston Red Sox are paying +600.
When the Padres traded for Soto in 2022, they gave away six young prospects. A trade this off-season would allow them to recover most of those losses.
Blake Snell Changing Teams?
It could be a double whammy for the Padres, with Soto possibly going, as well as newly awarded Cy Young winner Blake Snell. The Padres left-hander received 28 of the 30 first place votes in winning his second Cy Young. He also won it in the American League in 2018 with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network says the Padres, Dodgers, and Giants are going to be engaged in a spirited bidding war for the services of Snell in 2024 and beyond. BetUS.com actually has the Philadelphia Phillies as the favorite at +200 if he leaves the Padres. The Dodgers are second at +300, and the Red Sox are next at +400.
Spotrac.com estimates Snell’s contract value at six years for $143 million.