Yankees, World Series favorites, love being the hated Evil Empire

The world champion Astros are young and deep enough to make the case they’ll be better next season than they were in winning it all in 2017, especially after adding Gerrit Cole to their powerhouse starting rotation.

Yet in Las Vegas you can get a better price on them winning the World Series next season than you can the Yankees. According to Vegasinsider.com, the Yankees are the 9-2 favorites to win it all in 2018, as opposed to 7-1 for the Astros.

The Dodgers actually are closest in odds to the Yankees at 5-1, while the Red Sox, who won the AL East last season, are practically an afterthought at 12-1.

So either the wise guys in the desert are convinced that Brian Cashman is going to sign Yu Darvish or Vegas digs the long ball.

CC Sabathia glad Yankees back to ‘being that hated team’

Either way the acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton is clearly at the root of the perception the Yankees are now the team to beat in baseball. And even if such a notion may be overrating the impact of any one player, there is no hiding from the expectations that come with adding the highest-paid position player in the sport to a team that went to a Game 7 in the ALCS.

On Thursday CC Sabathia became the first player to officially embrace the idea the Evil Empire is back in business.

The acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton is clearly at the root of the perception the Yankees are now the team to beat in baseball.

The acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton is clearly at the root of the perception the Yankees are now the team to beat in baseball.

(Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

“Last year we were the team that everybody loved, that feel-good story,” Sabathia said on MLB Network’s Hot Stove show. “But getting Giancarlo just brings us back to being that hated team.”

Sabathia chuckled and added, “That’s what we like, man, we want to go out there and put the best team on the field and, you know, crush everybody every game.”

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Whoa. The big lefty may have been going for a laugh, speaking lightheartedly with his friend, Harold Reynolds, but it sure had a Darth Vader tone to it.

And while I don’t doubt that Sabathia welcomes the role reversal from last year, I do wonder how a relatively young team that had no expectations in 2017 will handle having a target on its collective back.

Or how a first-time manager, Aaron Boone, will deal with them as well.

The trick for all of them will be to shut out the outside noise and be driven by falling one game short of the World Series last season. Indeed, expectations aside, they should be a hungry bunch, since only Sabathia, David Robertson and Brett Gardner have championship rings in that clubhouse.

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Even if the Yankees don't sign Yu Darvish, their offense is going to win them many games.

Even if the Yankees don’t sign Yu Darvish, their offense is going to win them many games.

(Frank Franklin II/AP)

Adding Stanton obviously make them more imposing offensively, and he and Aaron Judge together will bring a rock-star quality unlike any other team in baseball.

But to take that next step and win a championship, I think Cashman will need that one more top-flight starter he’s had on his radar this off-season.

I thought he’d give up Chance Adams in addition to Clint Frazier to get Cole, but in the end, Cashman thought enough of Adams that he wouldn’t include him, or any of his other highest-ranked prospects, with Frazier, even when he knew the Pirates were going to make the trade with the Astros.

Will that come back to bite the Yankees next October? I do believe Cole will get back to being a very good starter, in part because the Astros will insist he throw more curve balls, just as they did with Charlie Morton last year. Just as the Yankees would have done had they gotten him.

Yankees have chance at getting Yu Darvish for ‘reasonable’ price

(New York Daily News )

In that case, adding Cole to a rotation of Dallas Keuchel, Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers, and Morton could make the Astros awfully tough to beat again in a postseason series, even if they can’t match the Yankees in the bullpen.

Adding Darvish would negate any Astros’ starting-pitcher advantage, theoretically at least. He has a lot to prove coming off his disastrous World Series starts for the Dodgers, but I don’t discount the pitch-tipping revelations as a significant factor.

The guy has the kind of eye-popping, power stuff that usually prevails in October, but it remains to be seen if Cashman can sign Darvish and find a way to keep the payroll under the almighty tax-threshold.

If not, the Yankees have enough pitching, especially considering they’ll sledgehammer their way to a lot of wins, to be fine going into the season. It’s more about adding that elite pitcher at some point for the post-season that could be the issue.

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First things first, of course: the priority is the win the AL East, and while fans in Boston are still screaming at GM Dave Dombrowski, wondering why he couldn’t have made that trade for Stanton, the Red Sox aren’t going to be pushovers.

They did win the division last year despite missing David Price for much of the season, and if they ever sign J.D. Martinez, they’ll have some much-needed home-run power.

But right now the Yankees look like the better team overall.

Whether they’re as good as the odds in Vegas would have you believe, well, that could come down to adding someone like Darvish, and perhaps even more importantly, everyone in pinstripes taking a Sabathia-like attitude about embracing the hate.

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