How might the St. Louis Cardinals fill the designated hitter position if it’s implemented? Don’t expect a high-profile external addition.
Arguably the most pressing question in these CBA negotiations, at least from an on-field perspective, is whether Major League Baseball will implement the universal designated hitter in 2022. The expectation has long been that they will and if that is indeed the case, how might the St. Louis Cardinals address it?
Katie Woo of The Athletic was asked that question in a recent mailbag and her answer was that “the Cardinals are confident that they have the internal talent to carry the position and can always re-evaluate around the trade deadline.”
Of course, this does not rule out the Cardinals from signing a free agent along the lines of, say, Albert Pujols. But it would put to rest any recent speculation that they could be players for Kyle Schwarber, Joc Pederson or even someone like Nelson Cruz. If they make any offensive additions, they will be depth pieces such as Colin Moran (as heavily speculated) or someone of that talent level.
Among the internal candidates that Woo alluded to include Juan Yepez, who appears to be the leader in the clubhouse for the role after a breakout season in the minors last season. Lars Nootbaar, the fourth outfielder, will also warrant consideration. Another possibility is Nolan Gorman, the top infield prospect who is going to make his long awaited major-league debut.
Another possibility is Paul DeJong. Of course, he will be the Opening Day shortstop, but there is depth at the position (Edmundo Sosa) and after Gorman is called up, there is going to be a surplus of infielders. Giving DeJong, a veteran, some additional days off could allow him to be fresh during the latter part of the season and perhaps the postseason should the Cardinals advance.
The Cardinals could also sparingly use those days to give Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt a breather while keeping their bats in the lineup. There are a multitude of possibilities, which is what president of baseball operations John Mozeliak covets.
But any decision that the Cardinals make will have Gorman and Yepez in mind. They do not want to block their path to playing time in the majors. Getting them at-bats is a priority. Which is why Schwarber, Cruz or any other high-profile bat to fill the DH role has always felt unlikely.