- The Cubs addressed their desperate need for a closer by inking Craig Kimbrel to a three-year, $43 million contract
- The seven-time All-Star tallied 42 saves for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox last season, but has not pitched since losing his closer role during last year’s postseason
- With injuries to Brandon Morrow and Pedro Strop, the Cubs’ pitching staff has been forced to close by committee, with seven different pitchers recording blown saves
The Chicago Cubs took a bold step this week towards addressing their desperate need for a closer by inking Craig Kimbrel to a three-year, $43 million contract. With 333 career saves, Kimbrel is considered one of the greatest closers in baseball history.
However, with the 31-year-old expected to need time in the minors before taking the mound in Chicago, Kimbrel’s signing has yet to give the Cubs a boost on the World Series odds at BetOnline, where they continue to lag behind the favorites as a +1600 bet.
2019 World Series Odds
|Team||2019 World Series Odds at BetOnline|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||+400|
|New York Yankees||+500|
|Boston Red Sox||+1400|
|Tampa Bay Rays||+1400|
*Odds taken on 06/06/19. Click on the link in the table above to see odds for all 30 MLB teams.
Injuries Leave Cubs with Closer Quandary
A pair of key injuries have forced the Cubs to close games by committee this season. The team’s expected closer, Brandon Morrow, has yet to return to action after undergoing offseason elbow surgery. Anticipated to be the club’s setup man, Pedro Strop has been thrust into the closer’s role, but a hamstring injury bounced him out of the lineup for four weeks until his return in Tuesday’s 6-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
The Cubs starting pitching that is 6th best in baseball and 3rd in NL? And two weeks doesn’t seem too far off, especially for the team with the most blown saves in the league pic.twitter.com/4W8IJQ9Bfj
— Bryan Ingle (@bingle1855) June 6, 2019
The Cubs’ closer issues have definitely had an impact on their early-season fortunes. When healthy, Strop has enjoyed only moderate success in the closer’s role, with Tuesday’s save marking just his fifth of the season, while seven different Chicago pitchers have recorded a combined 11 blown saves through the first third of the season.
Seven different Chicago pitchers have recorded a combined 11 blown saves through the first third of the season.
Despite those struggles, and thanks to a potent and healthy offensive attack, the Cubs maintain a slim one-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers atop the NL Central standings, and remain perched as +140 favorites to claim the divisional crown in MLB futures betting at Bovada.
Concerns Linger Over Kimbrel’s Lengthy Layoff
Concerns linger about how effective Kimbrel can be following a layoff that has kept him off the mound since last October. The seven-time All-Star tallied 42 saves with the World Series champion Boston Red Sox in 2018, but was also a source of high anxiety, giving up 31 hits and 31 bases on balls over 62 innings, and struggled in the postseason, losing his role as the Red Sox closer after allowing nine hits and eight walks in just 10.2 innings of work.
Craig Kimbrel with the Red Sox:
(3 seasons, 187 games)
12-7, 2.44 ERA, 108 SV, 119 SVO
184.1 IP, 92 H, 50 ER, 75 BB, 305 K
– 3X All Star
– 2017 AL Reliever of The Year
– 2018 World Series Champion pic.twitter.com/9a9067QO5g
— Boston Strong (@BostonStrong_34) June 6, 2019
But while Cubs fans will likely have to wait until at least next month to determine whether the club has effectively addressed its closer issues, Chicago continues to offer plenty of value on the World Series odds.
Healthy Offense Keeping Cubs Atop NL Central Standings
The Cubs opened the current season as a +1400 wager on the World Series following a disappointing 2018 campaign, plagued by an array of injuries to some of their biggest bats in the lineup. However, the Cubs have avoided any major injuries to key contributors on an offense that has powered them back to the top of the divisional standings.
Javier Baez’s ranks among qualified shortstops this season:
— Today in MLB (@TodayintheMLB) June 5, 2019
Batting .304 with 15 home runs and 39 RBI despite dealing with a minor heel injury, Javier Baez is once again making a case for consideration as NL MVP, while Kris Bryant has returned to form after being limited to just 102 games last season. Anthony Rizzo leads the club in home runs and RBI, while catcher Wilson Contreras’ 13 home runs have already eclipsed his total from all of last season, contributing to Chicago’s second-ranked home run total.
Tough June Schedule Awaits Ahead of Kimbrel’s Arrival
The Cubs have opened the month of June on a tear, bouncing back from a dismal 2-8 run by scoring 23 total runs in three straight victories. However, continued success this month will likely be crucial to this season’s fortunes.
The arch rival St. Louis Cardinals arrive in town following the Cubs’ current set with the Rockies, whom they will see again next week before heading to Los Angeles for a tough four-game test against the World Series favorite Dodgers. A revitalized Atlanta Braves squad visits Wrigley Field later this month before the club embarks on a stretch of 15 games featuring 13 contests against divisional rivals that will take them into mid-July and Kimbrel’s anticipated arrival.
If the Cubs can stay healthy, and avoid a slide similar to last June’s 6-11 run, it is reasonable to expect them to benefit from the adversity they have faced over the past year. They’re worthy of consideration as a value wager to claim their first World Series title since 2016.
Pick: Chicago Cubs (+1600)
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