Brewers: MLB’s Floundering On DH Rule Hampering Free Agent Activity

Oct 23, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred looks on before game two of the 2019 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 23, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; MLB commissioner Rob Manfred looks on before game two of the 2019 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /
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MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred still hasn’t provided teams an answer on whether or not the DH will be back in the National League for the 2021 season. His floundering on the issue is hampering free agent activity, especially for the Brewers.

The Brewers are in a unique position on this issue because of their team needs this offseason. Both of the positions the Brewers need to address, first base and third base, are positions where players typically can double as a DH when their defense isn’t very strong. That ability to stay in the lineup more often with the DH will increase that player’s earning potential.

But if the DH isn’t there, that earning potential also disappears. If the Brewers knew the DH would be there and the rules were set, they could feel a little more comfortable paying a free agent the money they’re asking for, knowing they’d have a way to keep their bat in the lineup most days. But since they don’t know which way MLB will decide on the DH rule, they can’t offer up the money the player wants.

On the other side, the player won’t sign for less money than they could get if the DH is available for all teams. If the DH is there, that’s 15 more potential teams in their market, and higher demand means better salary offers. It’s smart for the players who are corner infield/DH types to wait out and see what the rules are. And it’s smart for front offices to wait on the rule decision before they sign any one of those types of players because they can’t be un-signed and they don’t want to be stuck.

Jon Heyman offers an update, that there’s no deal for the DH for the 2021 season, but focus on a key phrase in his tweet. He says “at least for now” which means it’s still open for further discussion and the current state of affairs may not be permanent.

This is ridiculous floundering and waffling and confusion from MLB and the player’s union. How have we gone this long into the offseason and they still haven’t come to a conclusion? We are three weeks away from spring training and no one knows the rules.

Outside of Carlos Santana, pretty much the entire corner infield market has been at a standstill this offseason. We knew things were going to be slow coming off the shortened season with no fans and ticket revenue, but Manfred and the league didn’t have to make things worse by holding off on the DH decision. The lack of a decision on this issue has singlehandedly held up the market for dozens of players.

Players like Marcell Ozuna, Mitch Moreland, Nelson Cruz, Todd Frazier, Edwin Encarnacion, and many more remain unsigned to this point because they’re waiting to see if their market can expand with the possibility of the DH being in both leagues.

The possible return of Ryan Braun to the Brewers is also being held up by this. While Braun hasn’t said it specifically, if there isn’t a DH at the Crew’s disposal next year, he’s pretty much guaranteed to be retiring. There’s little chance he would come back if his only way into the lineup is to play the field. He would be a part-time player but still likely a full-time bat. Given his injury history, playing in the field wouldn’t be the most beneficial to him.

If the DH is there, he can split some time with Daniel Vogelbach and both can get plenty of at-bats while Braun can mostly stay healthy.

Whatever free agent additions the Brewers or any other team want to make at these positions is being prevented by the stonewalling of a concrete decision.

Set a deadline, lock yourselves in a room, and don’t come out until you reach a decision. Whatever way it goes, just make a decision. The players want the universal DH, the teams want it, and a large chunk of the fans want it. This shouldn’t be that complicated.

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This has been an example of extreme malpractice by the Commissioner’s office to still not have this handled. This answer should’ve been given before the offseason began. But instead, here we are.

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