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NL Central Futures: Can Anyone Catch the Cubbies?

The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals have dominated the National League Central over the past five years, and according to the early National League Central futures market, it’s the Cubbies who have the best chance to win the division in 2018.

At Bovada, the Cubbies are the -245 favorites to win the division for the third year in a row. The Cardinals (+325), Milwaukee Brewers (+550), Pittsburgh Pirates (+3000) and Cincinnati Reds (+4000) are all available in plus-money.

Here’s a betting breakdown of each NL Central team:

Chicago Cubs -245

On the heels of their World Series win, the Cubs couldn’t recapture the magic of 2016 and meekly bowed out of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. It’s hard to call the 2017 campaign a complete failure for the North Siders considering they snapped the longest World Series championship drought in history the previous year, but it certainly wouldn’t be considered a success either.

It took a while, but the Cubs finally landed their man when star pitcher Yu Darvish signed a six-year, $126-million contract with the team. The Darvish signing helped fill a vacancy created by the departures of Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and closer Wade Davis, while starter Tyler Chatwood, reliever Steve Cishek and new closer Brandon Morrow will also make their debut in the Windy City in 2018. Overall, it was a successful offseason for Chicago.

St. Louis Cardinals +325

For the first time since 2007-08, the Cardinals missed the playoffs in consecutive years.

For the first time since 2007-08, the Cardinals missed the playoffs in consecutive years. In the end, a mediocre 83-79 SU record simply wasn’t enough to get the Redbirds over the top. With a new focus on 2018, the Cardinals find themselves chasing the Cubs yet again before Opening Day.

Pundits and fans of the Cardinals have widely described their offseason as a largely disappointing one. The club has a payroll of over $121 million but there are holes across the roster. If general manager Mike Girsch can pull off a midseason trade for a superstar like Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado, it could be a different story, but right now the Cardinals aren’t scaring anyone.

Milwaukee Brewers +550

Compared to the Cards and Cubs, the Brewers are often forgotten in the NL Central. Considering the Brew Crew have only made the playoffs four times since the franchise relocated to Milwaukee from Seattle in 1970, it’s understandable why they’re perennially overlooked. The Brewers finished one game behind the Colorado Rockies for the second wild-card spot in 2017, but an 86-76 SU record provided plenty of optimism for baseball fans in Wisconsin.

Rather than be patient with its young group, Milwaukee decided to go for it in the offseason by sending top prospect Lewis Brinson and other young players to Miami in exchange for all-star outfielder Christian Yelich. The starting rotation could use another talented arm, but there’s no reason to expect Milwaukee to regress in 2018.

Pittsburgh Pirates +3000

In back-to-back years, The Pirates haven’t won more than 78 games.

In light of the Pirates’ underwhelming 2017 campaign, Pittsburgh’s front office found itself at a crossroads. The club’s three-year stint as a force in the NL Central was fading into the rear-view mirror, evidenced by 78- and 75-win seasons in back-to-back years. General manager Neal Huntington decided to hit the reset button and go all-in on a rebuild, and the Pirates will likely stay near the basement of the division for the time being as a result.

The trade of face-of-the-franchise outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants was a tough pill to swallow for Pirates fans, as was the decision to send ace pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros. Pittsburgh’s prospect cupboard has been restocked, but the on-field product won’t be increasing ticket sales in the Steel City.

Cincinnati Reds +4000

Cincinnati has been the doormat of the Central Division for years, and when you take a look at the 2018 edition of the Reds, it’s likely going to be more of the same for the historic franchise. The Reds’ 68-94 record in 2017 featured the club going 29-52 SU on the road and 39-42 at Great American Ball Park.

The Reds made a few minor signings to shore up the bullpen in the offseason with Jared Hughes and David Hernandez joining the squad, which will help a unit that put up a bloated 4.65 ERA a year ago. Cincy has stressed the importance of giving its young guys playing time, so it’s no surprise to see the Reds avoid any major free-agent veteran signings.

Odds to win the 2018 National League Central
Chicago Cubs-245
St. Louis Cardinals+325
Milwaukee Brewers+550
Pittsburgh Pirates+3000
Cincinnati Reds+4000

Odds as of March 1 at Bovada