A longtime MLB executive noted Monday the extraordinary difference that exists between the two leagues.
In the American League, almost every team can and will go into next season aiming to contend for a playoff spot, from the defending-champion Kansas City Royals to the pitching-rich Cleveland Indians to the retooling Seattle Mariners. With so many clubs in the fight for playoff spots, an AL team can expect that 90 victories will probably put them in good standing for a wild-card spot. The Yankees and Astros were wild-card entrants for the league of parity in 2015 with 87 and 86 wins, respectively, and the Rangers won the AL West with 88 victories.
The National League, on the other hand, is much more polarized, with some franchises -- the Phillies, Braves, Brewers and perhaps the Reds -- following the Astros and Cubs' blueprint for rebuilding. The Rockies don't appear to be close to contending, and the Padres' intentions continue to be a mystery to rival executives.
What that means is that once again, the National League's best teams will feast on the worst teams, and clubs that win fewer than 92 or 93 games in the NL probably aren't going to make the playoffs. The Mets had the fewest victories of any NL playoff team in 2015, with 90.
The context for each league frames the need for action this offseason, and for this list of teams who have the biggest holes to fill:
1. San Francisco Giants: Starting pitching
The Giants have shed the contracts of Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and others and have a lot of money to spend via free agency, and they will get this done, whether it's with one of their top targets, David Price or Zack Greinke, or with Johnny Cueto, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija or Mike Leake. It's worth remembering that of all MLB teams last winter, the Giants apparently offered the second-highest pile of dollars, behind only the Nationals and their deal with Max Scherzer. San Francisco discussed a $168 million deal with Jon Lester before the lefty pitcher signed with the Cubs.
The Giants also have serious interest in slugger Chris Davis.