We have had, in this Hot Stove of an offseason, about three months of dealing and leaking, lying and buying, talking and trading, and still there are teams out there with needs so desperate that it's almost too embarrassing to point out.
Yes, the Nationals still have to find an owner (as do the Orioles, if you want to get right down to it). And the Marlins still are lacking a suitable stadium to hold that circus they're running.
But, for our purposes, we're talking on-the-field needs. In the lineup. In the pitching staff. On the bench. Pressing problems, the kind that have the hometown fans wondering what in the heck their teams are going to do.
Here are a few on-field issues that have to be addressed -- and soon. Pitchers and catchers report in fewer than three weeks:
A starter for the Mets
Omar Minaya, one of the busier general managers in the game this offseason, has overhauled the bullpen, so now he's taking aim at the last troublesome unit on the team -- the rotation. He's already reworked it, trading Jae Seo and Kris Benson, which has cleared a spot for young Aaron Heilman. But finding another good young starter is critical, especially when you consider that aging Pedro Martinez (who has a bum toe) and Tom Glavine (how much does the soft-throwing lefty have left?) top this rotation. Getting the right man (Barry Zito, maybe, at the trade deadline?) could make the difference between being an also-ran and unseating the Braves in the National League East.
A top-notch starter for the Phillies
New GM Pat Gillick is nothing if not honest. He's on record as saying that without some better starting pitching, his team isn't as good as the Mets or the Braves. He's right; Jon Lieber, Brett Myers and Cory Lidle just don't scare people. The problem is that everybody wants more pitching (see Mets). Philly's best bet, for now, might be giving Ryan Madson, who was sensational as a rookie out of the 'pen in '04 (though less so last season), a couple of starts, just to see if the kid has it in him. One last-minute possibility: a short-term deal for the best free-agent available, righty Jeff Weaver.
A big bat for the Angels
They tried. You have to give the Angels credit for that. But after Paul Konerko turned them down and the Manny Ramirez talk dried up, the Angels are still looking for some pop in a lineup that last year had a hurting Vladimir Guerrero and little else. Right now, their hopes ride on a healthier Vlad, a better year from Garret Anderson and some improvement from the likes of young corner infielders Dallas McPherson (coming off hip surgery) and Casey Kotchman. Or they bring in a big-swinging corner infielder (good luck with that) or a proven-but-aging bat like Mike Piazza's. It could happen.