By Sam Panayotovich
FOX Sports Betting Analyst
“The Chicago Cubs have no hope or direction,” PlayUp USA head of wagering Rex Beyers told FOX Sports. “They will not win another World Series in my lifetime. I am fairly convinced of that.”
For the second time in 10 years, the Cubs find themselves in the early stages of another grueling organizational rebuild.
A decade after the then-Cubs president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein, trotted out lineups with the likes of Tony Campana, Steve Clevenger and Bryan LaHair, the present-day lineups will feature a lot of Zach McKinstry, Rafael Ortega and Frank Schwindel down the home stretch.
You could argue that none of those cats would start for a contending baseball club regularly, let alone all three. But despite a four-billion-dollar valuation and silly rich ownership, the Cubs aren’t trying to win.
That much was clear after current team president Jed Hoyer jettisoned franchise cornerstones Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber last summer.
“No team had more turnover from Opening Day last year to Opening Day this year than the Cubs,” Circa Sports sportsbook manager Chris Bennett told FOX Sports. “They dumped all their key World Series guys, and it looked like they were committed to a full-out rebuild. But then they made some moves this offseason like they were trying to compete.”
The Cubs gave Marcus Stroman a three-year, $71 million contract and plunked down $85 million to sign Japanese star Seiya Suzuki for five years.
And after surprisingly holding on to Willson Contreras and Ian Happ at Tuesday’s trade deadline instead of flipping them for more prospects, I’m as puzzled as anybody that roots for the North Siders.
“They’re in a weird spot, and it’s hard to figure out what they’re doing,” Bennett admitted. “They need to acquire more young talent because they’ve got a long way to go to be contenders again.”
Bennett guesstimated the Cubs could open as high as 200-1 to win next year’s World Series when Circa opens the 2023 future book. It’s impossible to know exactly what the odds will be right now, but triple digits is more than fair.
After decades of bettors flying to Las Vegas to get Cubs’ future tickets in hopes of the team finally breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat, they’re just another team on the board in the eyes of many.
“We don’t see a flood of public money on the Cubs to win the World Series anymore,” Bennett said. “There used to be a lot of recreational play no matter how good or bad they were supposed to be, but that hasn’t been the case lately.”
Epstein’s Cubs were exceptional at developing position pitchers and acquiring pitching from other places. They masterfully paired in-housers Baez, Bryant, Rizzo and Schwarber with Jon Lester and John Lackey in free agency and Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks and Aroldis Chapman via trades. Signing Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist helped, too.
That 2016 Cubs team was the perfect storm that culminated in the franchise’s first championship in 108 years, but they haven’t made it back despite Epstein’s promise of sustained success.
And it’s tough to be as optimistic with Hoyer in the big chair, given all the mixed messages and convoluted roster moves since dealing Chicago’s four World Series legends a little over 12 months ago.
“If you were to offer me a significant amount of cash, say $5 million, in exchange for instant death after the final out of the Cubs’ next World Series, I would take that deal immediately,” Beyers concluded.
Sam Panayotovich is a sports betting analyst for FOX Sports and NESN. He previously worked for WGN Radio, NBC Sports and VSiN. He’ll probably pick against your favorite team. Follow him on Twitter @spshoot.
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