Few of the people reading this were alive the last time Cleveland’s baseball franchise won a World Series — you’d have to be on the cusp of age 75 at minimum — and while the Guardians are hardly a favorite to win it this year, they just have to get into the playoffs to have a chance.
And that, fortunately, is deemed likely.
Last year’s American League Central Division champion is favored to repeat that claim in the season that starts Thursday night in Seattle, with Cy Young Award candidate Shane Bieber on the mound against the Mariners. The Guardians finish their Arizona spring training days with games in Phoenix against the Diamondbacks Monday and Tuesday. The home opener is Friday, April 7, also against Seattle.
Cleveland returns a young, exciting team that exceeded expectations in 2022 by winning 92 games and nearly beating the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. The Guardians won’t be surprising anyone this year if they do well, although the major online sportsbooks see them as winning fewer games, with the over/under total on their regular-season wins posted at 86.5 or 87.5.
Betting before the season starts on the wins total is just one of many futures bets that the mobile sportsbooks offer in the first year of legal betting in Ohio on MLB action. There are also individual prop bets on awards potential and season-long statistics of top players such as Bieber and Jose Ramirez.
Biebs struck out 11 last night in 6.2 innings.
— Cleveland Guardians (@CleGuardians) March 26, 2023
Some Ohio baseball fans will be content just to watch games without any gambling action, and others with betting interest may prefer the immediate gratification of a pre-game bet on a particular game — or even multiple results during the game itself by live betting.
But for others satisfied with a more long-term financial stake in the Guardians’ outcome on top of their rooting interest, we are happy to outline the key options.
A lot of good, young talent returns
Despite the projected decline in season wins, a legitimate case could be made for this team to only get better, considering it was the youngest in club in baseball last year. Its offseason losses were minimal, while slugging first baseman/DH Josh Bell and catcher Mike Zunino have joined as free agent acquisitions supposed to make up for the lack of power that was one of the Guardians’ few deficiencies last year.
Aside from third baseman Ramirez and staff ace Bieber, who have been among the best at their positions for years, the Guardians have rising (or already risen) stars in infielders Andres Jimenez and Amed Rosario, outfielders Steven Kwan and Oscar Gonzalez, No. 2 starter Triston McKenzie, and closer Emmanuel Clase.
On top of everything else, the team had four Gold Glove winners last year, with center fielder Myles Straw joining Kwan, Gimenez, and Bieber. And everyone around baseball views Terry Francona as one of the game’s top managers.
The one note of concern out of spring training just popped up Sunday, with McKenzie being removed from an outing after one inning due to forearm tightness. There was no word Monday morning (when all of the odds listed here were found) about the seriousness of his condition.
The oddsmakers look at all of the above and figure this is, at the very least, a playoff team again — whether by division repeat or as one of three wild card teams. DraftKings makes the Guardians -135 to reach the postseason and everyone else ranks them even more likely to do so (meaning they have odds with a lesser payout, such as -150 from FanDuel and Caesars Sportsbook).
As mentioned above, the regular-season wins total can be bet over/under 86.5 or 87.5, depending on the site. A Guardians backer would do best using the over 86.5 offered with standard -110 vig by the SuperBook, as competitors use either higher vig (such as -115 at BetMGM) or the higher 87.5 number at sites including Barstool Sportsbook, BetRivers, and betJACK.
As for winning the AL Central, everyone offers a plus price on the Guardians, even though they are favored over the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox, whose odds are similar to one another. The best return for a bet on Cleveland is the +135 posted by Barstool, BetRivers, and betJACK.
For those who dream big
For those with higher ambitions, such as the first World Series victory since 1948, the caution is that about a dozen teams are given better odds of achieving the feat. But that’s good news for Cleveland bettors, should the club pull it off as a pretty severe longshot.
The World Series odds are 30/1 at a number of sites, including bet365, Caesars, Barstool, BetRivers, betPARX, and betJACK. Bet365 was being even better for bettors Monday morning by listing a special boost to 40/1.
Last year’s World Series champion, the Houston Astros, are listed as the oddsmakers’ favorite again, so naturally they also have the shortest odds to win the American League. The Guardians can be bet at 15/1 at bet365, while other books provide a lesser payoff.
Ramirez, Bieber lead player prop options
It is hard to find a more consistently stellar player in MLB over the past decade than Ramirez — who is still only 30 — even if he doesn’t have quite the national acclaim of a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. And one thing he also doesn’t have is an AL MVP Award.
Cleveland Guardians star Jose Ramirez comes in 13th on ESPN's top 100 players list https://t.co/B2TEfQqoG5
— WKYC 3News (@wkyc) March 25, 2023
The sportsbooks place Ramirez about sixth or seventh most likely to win the award this season, with a 16/1 payoff available from BetMGM and others. That’s after a season with 29 home runs, 126 RBIs, and an .869 OPS.
The over/under on his 2023 home runs is listed as high as 29.5, but a Ramirez fan could use the SuperBook to bet over 28 with standard vig. And while DraftKings lists his RBI o/u at 103.5, a BetRivers or betJACK customer could bet over 98.5 at even money.
Bieber, coming off a season with 13 wins and 198 strikeouts, can be bet as high as 16/1 at FanDuel and the SuperBook to win the Cy Young, with Jacob deGrom the favorite as a newcomer to the AL.
For those expecting another strong season from Bieber, he can be bet over 11.5 wins at the SuperBook and over 187.5 strikeouts at FanDuel.
A couple of sites list Clase as the favorite to lead all of baseball in saves after he recorded 42 of those last year. He can be bet +600 at BetMGM to lead MLB.
DraftKings is one of the few sites to post an over/under on certain players’ hit totals. It has Rosario at 161.5 and Kwan at 154.5, with reduced vig of -105 to bet the over for either.
Last year, Rosario had 180 hits and Kwan had 168. Part of what’s baked into the lower numbers for their prop bets is how any significant injury — aside from poorer performance — would make it hard for them to match 2022.
Photo: Sarah Stier/Getty Images