Contenders' Wish Lists: American League

BOSTON, MA - MAY 02: Carl Crawford #13 of the Boston Red Sox scores off a hit by Dustin Pedroia in the fifth inning against the Los Angeles Angels on May 2, 2011 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

I don't care how good the team, we can always find a flaw if we look hard enough. And that might be especially true in this spring of relative parity, with only four games separating the top four teams in the American League East and only two games separating the entire American League West.

With that in mind, here are the biggest needs -- among those that might actually be addressed, anyway -- for the American League's many contenders ...

Boston Red Sox (30-22, +2)
A few weeks ago, the answer probably would have been "a catcher who can hit, just a little". But lately Jarrod Saltalamacchia's actually been hitting a little, just as management presumably believed he would, eventually. Otherwise there's not a great deal the Red Sox can do, except wait for Carl Crawford and John Lackey to start playing up to their salaries.

New York Yankees (27-23, -2)
An MLB-quality shortstop? Nah, probably not. And in right field, all you can do is keep running Nick Swisher out there most days and hope he starts hitting. The Yankees really could use just a plain old hitter, though. Thanks to Andruw Jones and (mostly) Jorge Posada, Yankee designated hitters rank last in the league in OPS by a lot. This is obviously inexcusable for the franchise that can, more than any other, have almost whatever it likes.

Tampa Bay Rays (28-24, -2)
With twin disappointments Reid Brignac and Dan Johnson out of the lineup lately (for different reasons), there's really only one obvious weakness that might be addressed ... and it gives me no pleasure to report that the weakness is left field, because Sam Fuld, legend and all, is batting just .227/.276/.351. Fuld is probably better than those numbers, but he's miscast as an every-day left fielder and it's probably time for the Rays to (finally) give Desmond Jennings a shot, as a platoon player at the very least.

Toronto Blue Jays (27-26, -3.5)
Are the Blue Jays really contenders? Hey, Jose Bautista is almost a contender unto himself. Toss in Adam Lind and the presumption that Jo-Jo Reyes can't lose every game, and we probably shouldn't discount the Jays' chances quite yet. They need some help, though. They're getting practically nothing from their second basemen (mostly Aaron Hill) or their third basemen (mostly Juan Encarnacion and lately Jayson Nix), and when Corey Patterson's one of your best hitters you know something has gone amiss.

Cleveland Indians (31-19, +6.5)
The Indians' No. 1 wish is obvious: good health. If Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner aren't reasonably healthy and productive over the next four months, the Tribe's going to be hard-pressed to hold off the Tigers and/or the White Sox. Otherwise, though? For a team that looked like a lock for fourth place before the season, the Indians are surprisingly non-needy. The lineup's set, if they can live with Orlando Cabrera's bat at second base. And the rotation looks solid, with four of the five current starters sporting a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.00 or higher.

Detroit Tigers (25-26, -6.5)
And by the time you read this -- pending the Tigers' second Sunday game against the Red Sox -- they might be seven games behind the Indians. And either way they're going to have a negative run differential. But we have to believe someone will challenge the Indians. And the latest running of Baseball Prospectus's Playoff Odds Report has the Tigers dead even with the Indians, each with a roughly 40-percent chance of winning the division.

What do the Tigers need? Simple: a second baseman. First it was Will Rhymes (since, dispatched to Toledo), then Scott Sizemore (since, traded to Oakland and then dispatched to Sacramento), and now supposedly it's Ryan Raburn, who can hit -- yes, despite all evidence this season to the contrary -- but can't field the position at all. Prediction: If the Tigers are playing games that matter in late September, Raburn won't be manning the keystone.

Texas Rangers (28-25, +1/2)
Like the Indians, all the Rangers need is love. No, wait ... that's you. All the Rangers need is good health. With Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, they've got a dynamite lineup. Without them, it's just another bunch of nine guys who might put four runs on the board.

Orange County Angels (28-27, -1)
The Angels are pretty well-set, actually. I mean, except for Vernon Wells "earning" $23 million this season for being one of the worst hitters in the league. Wish List: 1. Vernon Wells hits; 2. Vernon Wells hits some; 3. Vernon Wells sort of hits. Otherwise, there's not much to complain about. Tyler Chatwood's eventually going to be driven back to the Pacific Coast League by his sub-1.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. But if your No. 5 starter is your only real problem ... well, something will come up before the trade deadline, probably. The Angels are in a pretty good place, though.

Oakland Athletics (27-27, -1.5)
Hey, here's an idea ... Find somebody who can actually hit. First base? Disaster. Second base? Disaster. Third base? Disaster. Designed hitter? Disaster. 

There's not much help on the farm. The only Sacramento hitter of any note who's having a big season is left fielder Adrian Cardenas, but a) the A's don't really have an opening in the outfield, b) Cardenas isn't likely to displace DH Hideki Matsui, considering Godzilla's track record, and c) Cardenas probably has been a bit over his head with Sac'to, anyway. The A's did recently trade for Scott Sizemore, but of course there's a reason he was available. If the A's are still within shouting distance a month from now, look for them to trade for a hitter. Because what's happening right now is, quite frankly, an embarrassment to contending teams everywhere (well, except in Seattle).

Seattle Mariners (26-26, -1.5)
Yes, the Mariners are absolutely the most surprising team on this page. And yes, they've been outscored this season. But here's the thing: They're in freaking first place.

Well, in a different dimension anyway, one in which the Rangers did not come from behind to beat the Royals Sunday afternoon, and in which the Mariners were not blown out by the Yankees. Still, they could be in freaking first place by Tuesday midnight. 

So what do they need? Well, a third baseman would be nice. Seriously, could Chone Figgins be any worse. It's worth pausing for just a moment to consider the disastrous nature of Figgins' four-year, $36 million contract. Last year was the first year of the contract, and Figgins' numbers took a serious turn south as he batted .259/.340/.306 ... which looks like a Ted Williams campaign compared to this year's .197/.240/.266. It seems exceptionally unlikely that the Mariners will eat the rest of Figgins' contract, which is good because it also seems unlikely that he'll continue to play so poorly.

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