Cubs

Big surprise: Cubs the favorite to win 2016 World Series

cubs-world-series-odds-bovada-dec-slide.png

Big surprise: Cubs the favorite to win 2016 World Series

In a move that should not shock anyone, the Cubs are the favorites to win the 2016 World Series by Bovada's most recent odds.

The Cubs are now listed at 6/1 odds, but they aren't alone atop the World Series odds. The San Francisco Giants - hot on the heels of their big signings of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija - are also pitted at 6/1 odds of winning it all.

It's also an even year, which means the Giants - who won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014 - are natural contenders.

The Cubs have only lost Starlin Castro as a main cog from a team that won 97 games last year and made it to the National League Championship Series.

[RELATED - Joe Maddon knows Cubs have nowhere to hide: ‘We are the target’]

They've since retooled with starting pitcher John Lackey, utility man/second baseman Ben Zobrist and top free agent position player Jason Heyward while also bringing back Trevor Cahill and adding Rex Brothers and Adam Warren as pitching depth.

The Boston Red Sox are 9/1 favorites for the 2016 title after inking David Price to a megadeal this winter.

Here are the rest of Bovada's Top 10:

4. Kansas City Royals - 14/1
4. New York Mets - 14/1
6. Los Angeles Dodgers - 16/1
6. St. Louis Cardinals - 16/1
6. Toronto Blue Jays - 16/1
9. Houston Astros - 18/1
9. Pittsburgh Pirates - 18/1
9. Washington Nationals - 18/1

The Cubs opened the offseason at 11/1 odds of winning the World Series, which put them alone atop the rankings on Nov. 2.

Tom Ricketts thinks Cubs 'have the best team in our division'

Tom Ricketts thinks Cubs 'have the best team in our division'

For the first time since 2015, expectations around the Cubs aren’t that high.

Sure, a significant core from the 2016 World Series-winning team is still around, but also for the first time since 2015 the Cubs are coming off a season in which they did not make the playoffs. Plus, the offseason hasn’t inspired much confidence that the team will improve upon its 84-win season from 2019.

Despite that, owner Tom Ricketts talked the talk about his team still being the best in the NL Central.

“I think we have the best team in our division,” Ricketts said during a press conference from spring training on Monday. “I think we have a really dynamic, exciting new manager. I think the players are going to play very, very hard for David Ross. Barring some kind of crazy injuries I think we should win our division and get back in the playoffs.”

The Cubs’ offseason lacked a notable addition on paper. Here, Ricketts is alluding to Ross being that big addition. If things had gotten stale under Joe Maddon, perhaps that was a reason for underachievement last year. Expecting Ross to be the biggest reason for a turnaround is a lot to put on a rookie manager with no coaching experience, but it would be weird if Ricketts didn’t hype up his own guy.

Recent Cubs’ signing Jason Kipnis said the same things about the Cubs having the best roster in the division on paper. Kipnis told a story about texting Anthony Rizzo about that when he talked to the media from Mesa on Sunday.

“They got a good core here. I’m well aware of that, they’re well aware of that, too,” Kipnis said. “I texted him and called him and asked him what happened last year, because I look at rosters, I look at St. Louis’, I look at all that, and I’m like, ‘I still would take your guys' roster.’”

The early projections don’t agree with Ricketts and Kipnis. The Cubs are not favored in the division as projected by USA Today, which put the Cubs at 82 wins, and PECOTA, which had the Cubs averaging 84.5 wins.

Still, Ricketts believes in his group to get to the playoffs.

“Once you’re in the playoffs there’s no reason to think you won’t go all the way,” Ricketts said. “I think one of the things that people realize about baseball playoffs is it doesn’t matter what your record was during the season. Everyone has a chance to go all the way. So that’s what we have to do. We have to get back on top of our division and I think we have the right guys to do that.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Steven Souza's healthy and ready to prove himself to Cubs fans and baseball in general

Steven Souza's healthy and ready to prove himself to Cubs fans and baseball in general

MESA, Ariz. –  Two years ago, things were looking bright for Steven Souza. At 28, he was coming off the best season of his career, one where he slashed .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, good for a 121 wRC+. The Rays are certainly never prohibitive favorites in the AL East, but the team was talented and the idea of catching up with the division’s juggernauts was no longer unrealistic. 

Then came the shoulder injury, which delayed the start of his 2018 season until mid-May. After that there was a pec injury, and before he knew it, the year was over and the right fielder had only played in 72 games. Think that’s bad? The following season, now playing for Arizona, Souza slipped while crossing home plate during one of the last games of Spring Training. He tore his ACL, and his season ended before it began. 

“It’s been a grind,” said Souza, who signed a one-year deal with the Cubs in late January. “Coming off the year I had in ‘17, I was excited for the future held for me, and I just kind of ran into a couple injuries that really derailed my last couple seasons. It’s been frustrating, but all that’s behind me, and even though it’s been a grind, I’m excited to get back out here and look forward to the future.” 

Freak injuries derailed what looked to be a promising prime of Souza’s career, and you wouldn’t blame him for harboring his fair share of resentment. It’s impressive, then, to hear him talk about what lasting effect the run of injuries has had on his psyche. 

“Personally, I don’t believe in accidents,” he said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. I don’t know what that reason was, but I know that I’m stronger for it. Mentally, I think if there’s a silver lining, it’s that I got to spend a full year with my son and my newborn daughter. As we all know, in this game, we don’t get to spend a lot of time with our families. So it was a huge blessing and I’m looking forward to moving on from that.” 

Unlike the years he spent playing alongside All-Star center fielders like Kevin Kiermaier and A.J. Pollock, Souza’s outfield positioning will be less set in stone with the Cubs. He’ll get ABs from the corners, but with Schwarber and Heyward not losing their starting positions anytime soon, the quickest road to more at-bats may come in center field. 

"Like I said, wherever I need to fit on the field,” he said. “Whether it’s first base, catcher, shortstop – I mean I’m not very good at those, and there are some really, really good players that are way better than me at those – but I’m just looking to help this team any way I can.” 

Not unlike new teammate Jason Kipnis, the draw of Wrigley was also too much to turn down. He has some moderate success there, too. Over 23 career plate appearances in the Friendly Confines, Souza’s hit .333/.391/.429 with an .820 OPS. It’s a small sample size, but it’s one that has him optimistic that he can prove himself the the North Side’s faithful. 

“I’ll tell you what, that was one of the things that brought me here, the fans and the environment. I’m super pumped,” he said. “And no offense, but I’ve played in Tampa and Arizona and those aren’t the greatest markets in the league. I’ve always enjoyed going to Wrigley, and I’ve had some good success at Wrigley, and I know the Cubs fans bring it every day and I’m looking forward to that.” 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.