Baseball gamblers see good things for White Sox, rebuild ahead for Cubs

Handicappers believe the forecast looks much brighter for the South Side than the North Side, where a fire sale could be in the works.

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Chicago Cubs v Chicago White Sox

Handicapper Tom Barton won’t invest in the Cubs because he believes they’ll trade Las Vegas native Kris Bryant and others.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — As he updates odds for the upcoming Major League Baseball season, Westgate SuperBook vice president Jay Kornegay morphs into a radio DJ issuing a weather report.

“The Cubs look like they will dump salary,” he says. “It won’t surprise us if Kris Bryant gets traded sooner than later, so they’re down to 78œ. The doom and gloom is on the North Side.

“The bright side of Chicago, the South Side, is looking pretty good at 89œ. It’s cloudy and overcast in the North, really sunny in the South.”

The 78½ is the Cubs’ projected victory total, 89½ for the White Sox. The price of an over or under wager is -110, or bet $110 to win $100.

In World Series money bet and tickets written, the Sox rank third at William Hill US. Nick Bogdanovich, its director of trading, says, “People think the White Sox are the real deal this year.”

At the South Point, the Sox are even money to win the American League Central, the Cubs +600 to take the National League Central. At Circa Sports, the Sox are +310 for the pennant, +750 (risk $100 to win $750) to win the World Series and -1300 to not win the title.

The Cubs’ corresponding figures are +4750, +10,000 and -14,000. Any takers on risking $140 to win a buck on that gem?

However, a trickle of optimism does exist with the Cubs. The SuperBook opened them at 77½ on Feb. 16, so a small wave of over wagers by recreational bettors and tourists has bumped that total up one whole victory.

“The diehards are not letting go,” says Kornegay. “They’re hoping for the best on the North side. Only the diehards remain. Maybe they are the true fans that will root for the Cubs no matter what?”

THE GRUELING MONTHS

Tom Barton is not a Cubs fan. The Long Island handicapper and native New Yorker is a lifelong Yankees (and Bears) supporter, but he is somewhat optimistic about the North Side franchise.

It doesn’t have an ace pitcher, he says, but Kyle Hendricks is “massively underrated,” the rotation is deep and closer Craig Kimbrel allowed no runs and just three hits, walking nobody and whiffing 13, over his final eight appearances last season.

Barton expects solid seasons by shortstop Javy Baez, switch-hitting outfielder Ian Happ and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, whom Barton aims to nab in all of his fantasy leagues.

In a mediocre division, Barton believes the Cubs could win 85 or 86 games, three or four shy of the division-winning Cardinals.

However, he won’t invest in the Cubs because he agrees with Kornegay, that Vegas native Bryant likely will be peddled, and probably Baez and catcher Willson Contreras, too.

Says Barton, “I think they want to deal [Bryant] now but know the value will be greater later, when another team has an injury or needs a bat to make a push.”

Barton is lying in wait to poach an enviable under number on the Sox, whose victory total he set at 90. At some of his sportsbook options, that has increased from 91 to 92.

He’s practicing patience to mine a high total on an under figure. The Sox open at the Angels on April 1. If it ekes to 93½, he’ll wait out a 94 before first pitch. He has seen the Sox balloon from -120 to -175 to win their division.

“Because of the hype,” says Barton. “All of a sudden, everyone is kind of overvaluing the White Sox. My concern about them is not in April, May, June or July, but the grueling months of August and September.

“So many of them have had such short careers. Are they, physically, going to be where they need to be at the end? They’re counting on a lot of guys that I’m not sure know how to deal with a ridiculously grueling season.”

He mentions 23-year-old center fielder Luis Robert, 24-year-old left fielder Eloy Jimenez and blue-chip prospect Andrew Vaughn, a former collegiate player of the year at California who turns 23 on April 3.

“They do have veterans, like Tim Anderson and Dallas Keuchel, and I still think they win the division. They’re the Yankees’ biggest competition,” Barton says. “But if they’re flying along and hit that rookie wall in August, it won’t shock me.”

ACE VS. ACE

Yankees starter Gerrit Cole to win the AL Cy Young award has received most of Barton’s futures attention, about $4,000 on tickets, most at 4-1 odds, from six books.

He will hammer over on Blue Jays home games at their Triple-A TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida. And he’s heavy on Jays third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., a trim 240 after shedding 42 pounds, to win the home-run crown at 30-1.

Instead of his typical monitoring of players and games over the first month, though, he’ll “pound,” he says, five-inning under wagers between aces from the start.

MLB’s deadening of the ball, and such an unorthodox offseason after such an unorthodox, truncated 2020 campaign, convinces him that pitchers, especially the premier ones, will be far ahead of hitters.

When two of his top 15 starters face each other, he’ll fire away.

“I’ve loved the five-inning under my entire career,” Barton says. “Those ace-versus-ace matchups have probably paid for an extra room in my house.”

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