While nothing is certain yet, the odds are leaning towards the St. Louis Cardinals and the rest of the NL having the DH in 2021.
As much as some traditionalists may have hated it, the addition of the Designated Hitter in the National League in 2020 was a huge help for the St. Louis Cardinals. Whether it was getting players rest during the horrible schedule they had to go through or getting Dexter Fowler and Matt Carpenter’s bats in the lineup, it was there to help.
When the negotiations were happening for the 2020 season, the DH was an easy slip in to the deal that ended up being put into place. While many believed bringing the DH to the NL was a lot like Pandora’s Box, there was speculation from some that the owners would use the DH as a bargaining chip for 2021 and the upcoming CBA negotiations for 2022 and beyond.
Of course, the MLBPA wants the added 30 jobs that the DH brings, and the owners want an expanded playoff going forward. It is a shame that these rumors are even a thing, but the owners are the ones with the power here.
This week, the GM meetings should offer an insight into what the most likely scenario is for the 2021 season. Thankfully, it seems the DH is likely for 2021.
A ‘safe bet’ is far from a guarantee, but I want to talk about how crazy it is that NL front offices don’t know whether or not they will have a DH yet. The DH was not something they were able to plan for in 2020, and now that free agency has started, NL teams still don’t know. National League teams can’t go after a DH candidate like Nelson Cruz because they could get stuck with a defensive liability without a spot in the lineup.
There is a distinct possibility that NL teams are at a disadvantage in negotiations with a whole section of the market because this issue has not been decided. Even if teams are not going after free agents who project to be designated hitters, it still can put them behind.
How about for a team like the Cardinals and their third base situation? Without a DH, the Cardinals are going to play Matt Carpenter at third base. That is going to keep them from exploring upgrades to the position because there really isn’t another place to play him. If there is a DH, that lets the front office explore upgrades at third because they can just DH Carpenter. In general, this team is in trouble with no DH.
Once again, this is the MLB shooting itself in the foot. Half of the teams in the league are likely sitting on their hands until this issue and others are decided. A robust and busy free agency period is always exciting for fans, bloggers, and journalists alike. By leveraging the DH over the MLBPA, the league is turning down the heat on the hot stove.
Thankfully, this seems to be something that should be nailed down soon, the longer the wait, the more the disadvantage grows.