The Bucs have been conspicuously quiet so far this year, filling in some cracks by adding to bullpen depth, bringing back Clint Barmes and signing Charlie Morton. But that first base hole doesn't show any indication of disappearing, and if AJ doesn't return, they're still a top-three pitcher short of a load.
Well, Santa may not bring them any shiny toys to resolve those situations, but we're confident that they'll address the situation. Now the FO is facing the hard part of team rebuilding - getting there is a big step, but staying there is the proof.
But one thing in their favor is that except for St. Louis, retooling for the future, the rest of the division hasn't done much to close the gap.
The Cards lost Carlos Beltran, but he was just blocking super prospect Oscar Taveras. They filled a need at short with the Jhonny Peralta signing, much like the Pirates identified a need last year and brought in Russ Martin. The Redbirds improved their 2013 weak leak, team D, first by moving Beltran and next by clearing space for Kolten Wong at second and Matt Carpenter at third and bumping weak hitting Pete Kozma into a back-up role. They remain the team to beat, and 97 wins is again within their sights as they remain the Central Division's model franchise.
The Reds lost Shin Soo-Choo, Brandon Phillips is a situation still fermenting and Bronson Arroyo doesn't look like he'll be back. So far, they'll hang their hat on speedster Billy Hamilton, improving the D some, but otherwise have just made a handful of depth signings. The biggest difference may be swapping out old-school manager Dusty Baker for pitching coach Bryan Price, who may bring Cincy's tactical maneuvers into this century.
The Brewers have sat pat. They have a pretty nice core of everyday players, and having Ryan Braun back has to be considered equal to a big FA deal. But they haven't done anything to improve their rotation and pen, and it's tough to hit your way to the top without adequate pitching along the way.
The Cubs are in rebuild mode, and we in Pittsburgh know all about the trials and travails that entails. They've lost Alphonso Soriano, Matt Garza, and Scott Feldman, and still can't decide whether to deal or sign Jeff Samardzija. Theo Epstein may turn the Cubbies around, but it won't be in the near future, especially with the pitching transition.
So give the Bucs some time. Starting the season with Frankie Liriano and Gerrit Cole is an improvement over 2013, Gregory Polanco and Jameson Taillon are just around the bend, and except for that first base opening and another starter, the FO may believe they can keep on truckin' internally. That's the plan, and so far, so good.