As the Brewers try to construct their roster for the 2021 season, it sure would be nice to know if they’ll have the DH at their disposal.
What’s taking so long, MLB? After having the designated hitter in the NL in 2020, many NL execs were won over and things were trending towards the DH becoming a permanent fixture in the NL. The Brewers themselves enjoyed having it, despite the offense putting up poor numbers.
Now we’re a month into the offseason and teams still don’t know what the roster rules are going to look like in 2021. How can teams make offseason moves and kick free agency into high gear if they don’t know a very important detail about the roster?
Why would a player that’s a DH only deal with half the league as possible suitors when they could have all 30 teams as possible landing spots?
We’re coming up on the non-tender deadline. For NL teams, knowing whether they will have the DH or not can impact who they tender and who they don’t.
Take the Brewers, for example. Daniel Vogelbach is arbitration eligible for the first time and he’s a designated hitter essentially, but he can also play some first base, although that’s not ideal. If the DH is back in the NL next year, that dramatically improves Vogelbach’s chances of getting tendered a contract. Without the DH, Vogelbach is more likely to get non-tendered.
The Brewers have to make that decision on Vogelbach in the next two days, as of this article’s publication. It sure would be nice to know if they’ll have the DH position to put him in before they decide to tender or non-tender him.
What if MLB decides to keep the DH in the NL later on, but by that point the Brewers already non-tendered Vogelbach? Now they might try to get him back, but other teams can jump in and the Brewers may lose their preferred player because MLB couldn’t get things figured out early enough in the offseason.
What if the Brewers keep him, expecting to have the DH and then weeks later, MLB announced there won’t be a DH in the NL next year? Without that spot, perhaps that means they wouldn’t want to keep him, and they have to DFA him because of it. That’s potentially weeks of being a free agent Vogelbach missed out on, and the number of openings that he could fill is much smaller, which hurts his earning potential.
Also, Ryan Braun‘s future is up in the air. He doesn’t know if he’ll return next year or retire. One thing that could play a huge factor is the DH being in the National League. If there is a DH, that might help convince him to return. If there isn’t, that might convince him to retire. The earlier he finds out, the more time he has to make a decision.
What’s the hold up?
The Player’s Union has been pushing for the DH to be added to both leagues for some time now. MLB ownership came around to it in 2020 and they would like it going forward. So if both sides want it to happen, why hasn’t it happened yet?
Essentially, it comes down to leverage and CBA negotiations. MLB would be willing to give the permanent universal DH to the players, but they want something back in return. It’s Negotiating 101, don’t give away something for free that you can get something for in return.
It’s frustrating, to be sure. And given the tension in the return-to-play negotiations over the summer, it would be nice to see some good faith and good will from both sides and to do something strictly for the good of the game instead of trying to leverage everything.
But Rob Manfred wasn’t born yesterday, and he rose to the Commissioner’s Office through being a labor lawyer and a tough negotiator. He’s not going to change now.
Whatever concession, whatever deal that needs to be made in order to finalize the decision on the DH in the NL, it needs to be made soon.
We’re almost in December. The non-tender deadline is quickly approaching, the Winter Meetings follow the week after, and teams want to move forward with their roster construction. They can’t do that if they don’t know whether there’s a DH or not in their league.
This decision can’t be pushed off any longer. MLB and the MLBPA need to come to some sort of agreement on the DH for 2021. Whether they should keep it in or not is a different debate, but we need clarity on the issue soon, or both sides will continue to be hurt the longer this drags out. Not knowing is negatively impacting players and it’s negatively impacting teams.
The Brewers’ offseason has been slow to this point, but that could change after the non-tender deadline. We’ll see what happens over the next few days.