2019’s stealth contenders and the next move each should make

I think many of us share an idea of who makes up the cream of the MLB crop. In the American League, it would be a shock not to see the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros return to the playoffs. In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers are still up there, and the St. Louis Cardinals may have joined them. The Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves just won their divisions, the Chicago Cubs still possess most of their strengths, and the NL East in particular looks to be turning into a four-team dogfight. Many of our offseason conversations have revolved around the same ballclubs — ones that think they have a strong chance of reaching the World Series.

But there are also less obvious contenders, stealth contenders, teams that still have some upgrades to make but could still fight their way into October. Remember that few people picked last year’s Oakland Athletics, or the Braves. Every year there are certain favorites, but almost invariably a good team disappoints. Doors open, even if you don’t notice them creaking during the winter.

Here, we’re identifying five teams that don’t exactly find themselves in the spotlight. Not one of these five teams is expected nor likely to win its division. Each of them is flawed, on paper. And yet, each of them has talent on its roster. For all five teams, I’m proposing a realistic addition. Each team gets a major move that would push the needle and boost the chances of stretch-run contention. But none of these moves involves signing Bryce Harper or Manny Machado.

Here are five big moves that could and would significantly help five off-the-radar contenders. I don’t have everything worked out to the last detail, and we won’t get that far into the weeds. I’m an idea man, so here are five ideas.

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