Baseball season is just two weeks away, and Chicago fans will be able to visit their home stadiums for the first time since 2019.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently announced that Wrigley Field and Guaranteed Rate Field would be able to host fans at 20% capacity this upcoming season.
That’s approximately 8,000 fans per stadium.
The St. Louis Cardinals, who play close to the Illinois border, will allow about 15,000 fans per game at Busch Stadium.
As the vaccine pace continues to ramp up, there is a relative sense of normalcy returning to Illinois.
The state’s COVID-19 positivity rate is currently 2.6%. It has remained below 3% for several weeks.
With the Bears striking out on Russell Wilson and Illinoisans unable to bet on their two March Madness teams, fans are eager to bet on the Cubs and White Sox.
For what it’s worth, you can right now. Illinois sportsbooks allow wagering on spring training, and there are games every day.
But if you’d rather wait until the games count, here’s what you can expect from both Chicago teams.
White Sox are World Series contenders
Only the Dodgers, Yankees and Padres have better odds.
The Sox are +380 to win the American League, and -130 to win the AL Central.
Chicago has an ideal mix of talented veterans and emerging newcomers. The team’s biggest strength might be its bullpen.
Just look at the names: Liam Hendriks, Aaron Bummer, Codi Heuer, Evan Marshall, Matt Foster, Garrett Crochet and Michael Kopech. That’s arguably the best bullpen in baseball.
The White Sox also led the AL in runs scored in 2020, and most of the same lineup is back. Chicago also adds top prospect Andrew Vaughn as designated hitter, and Adam Eaton in right field.
Eaton wasn’t great in 2020, but in 2019, he slashed .279/.365/.428 for a Nationals team that won the World Series. If nothing else, he should be an upgrade over the departed Nomar Mazara.
Chicago’s biggest weakness last season was starting pitching, and the fifth slot is still a question mark. But the White Sox added Lance Lynn from the Rangers, who has produced a sub-4 ERA in all but one of his nine big league seasons.
There’s a lot to like about this White Sox team. And outside of the Twins, the AL Central doesn’t look terribly daunting.
How about the Cubs?
The two Chicago baseball franchises appear to be headed in opposite directions.
The Cubs are +4,000 to win the World Series at DraftKings. They are +2,200 to win the National League and +425 to win the NL Central.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, are favored to win the division at +105. Chicago is behind the Cardinals, Brewers and Reds in the NL Central odds.
Simply put, the Cubs likely got worse in the offseason.
Chicago dealt ace starting pitcher Yu Darvish to the Padres for a modest return. Darvish was one of the best starters in baseball last year, going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA.
The Cubs’ biggest offseason addition was outfielder Joc Pederson, who hit .190 for the Dodgers last season. Though we should mention, Pederson hit 36 home runs for Los Angeles in 2019, and the Cubs are hoping he can return to that form.
Pederson is replacing Kyle Schwarber, though, and the two are similar value-wise.
Going into the offseason, it looked like the Cubs could have remained the NL Central favorites if they added a few key pieces.
Instead, they dealt away their best player in 2020 and didn’t add much of note.
Meanwhile, the rival Cardinals added an MVP-caliber third baseman in Nolan Arenado.
Do the Chicago baseball teams have sports betting partners?
DraftKings is the official sports betting partner of the Cubs. There will soon be a retail DraftKings Sportsbook at Wrigley Field, likely in 2022.
The White Sox don’t have an official betting partner, but their games air on NBC Sports Chicago. NBC is partnered with PointsBet, so expect to see a lot from them on Sox broadcasts.