With the flurry of activity that’s taken place this offseason, the outlook for many teams around the league has changed. The balance of power in previously unbalanced divisions has shifted, and former division stalwarts now look more like legitimate contenders than runaway champions. Every fan of a basement dwelling team dreams of the day their team pushes all the chips into the middle and turns from also-ran to contender, and this year has seen a good number of teams surge upward in their projected win columns for 2014. The offseason isn’t over, however, and that means there’s still ample time to make moves to answer the improvements of a division rival or push the envelope further in your favor. Some teams have, naturally, fallen behind the eight-ball this year as their rivals made additions that left them in the dust. Here are the top five teams that need to make a move to matter in 2014.
#5 The PIRATES
Everyone’s darling in 2013, the Pittsburgh Pirates marched to much fanfare to their first winning season and then their first playoff appearance in over twenty years. Led by insanely awesome dude Andrew McCutchen and his 8.2 fWAR season, built on the back of a .393 wOBA and fantastic baserunning, the Pirates soared to a 94 win season and captured the first of the NL Wild Cards. They lost in the first round to the Cardinals, but their magical season cannot be unmagicked, they improbably saw breakouts and career resurrections while embracing a strategy centered around new-fangled stats and aggressive defensive shifts coupled with an emphasis on pitchers keeping the ball on the ground. This year, the Pirates look poised to enter the year missing one A.J. Burnett, who led last year’s squad of pitchers with 4.0 fWAR and still absent a competent option at either first base or right field. Granted, prospect Gregory Polanco looks poised to smash through the wall to the big leagues as soon as performance or service time concerns have been met and Jose Tabata certainly isn’t a gaping, Gaby Sanchez sized black hole, so while right field is less of a problem than the media may have you believe, having that exact sized hole at first-base certainly is. Sanchez is projected by ZiPS to put up a .322 wOBA in less than a full season of plate appearances. That figure, and it is optimistic in my personal opinion, would have ranked fifth last amongst first-basemen in 2013, a .337 is the average for the position, and last year Chris Davis led the pack with a .421 for the Orioles. The Pirates need to address their Gaby Sanchez problem before the start of the season; a contender shouldn’t be taking the field planning on giving a year’s worth of at-bats to the likes of Sanchez and Travis Snider, least of all at the position where offense should be the strongest. Possible moves include a trade for any number of flawed-but-superior options around the league like Adam Lind of the Blue Jays or Lucas Duda of the Mets, or shifting Pedro Alvarez from third base over to first and attempting to acquire an above average third-baseman via trade.