I’ve long been an opponent of the designated hitter being implemented in the National League. But it has long since been an inevitability — even more so with Ken Rosenthal’s report from last night.
Contained within is the tidbit that the NL would adopt the DH for the 2019 season. Jeff Passan echoed that (sort of) by saying the MLB Player’s Association wants it adopted for the ‘19 season. While it still seems unlikely to happen for this season, let’s just assume it happens for the purposes of this article.
Immediately, my mind went to Bryce Harper. While I’ve written — seemingly ad nauseam — about Harper and why the Dodgers should be in on him this winter, adding the designated hitter only cements that belief even more. Well, either him or Manny Machado.
If the season began today, this would be the likely defensive alignment against right-handed pitching:
C Austin Barnes/Russell Martin
1B Max Muncy
2B Kiké Hernandez/Chris Taylor
3B Justin Turner
SS Corey Seager/Taylor
LF Cody Bellinger
CF A.J. Pollock
RF Alex Verdugo
That’s not bad; it’ll win the division. But now, imagine if it looked like this:
And now, imagine it with Machado instead:
Either way, adding the DH would allow the Dodgers the luxury of bringing in Harper or bringing back Machado.
Look, I realize it’s probably not going to happen, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t. The Dodgers can afford it and adding a generational talent to the mix would go a long way to (hopefully) curing their offensive October blues (and would go a long way to helping them get back to the World Series).
Missing is Joc Pederson. In both of these scenarios, I’d expect him to be traded because there’s simply not a clear path to playing time when everyone is healthy. He has two years of team control remaining and the Dodgers should be able to get something decent in return. Perhaps to use in a trade at the deadline or to strengthen the farm system.
It’s Feb. 6 and Harper and Machado are still unsigned. They should have been signed weeks ago, but MLB owners are doing a great job of not spending money this offseason. At this rate, all 30 teams should be in on both of them — you know, like the Phillies, White Sox and yes, the Padres, are. The addition of the DH to the NL should only improve the number of teams interested in both superstars.
Even with the DH, the Dodgers probably won’t pigeonhole themselves into having a primary player to man that position. Muncy would get the bulk of the time, but there would be a rotation of players going through, with Muncy getting some time at first base, Bellinger in the outfield and so on. If anything, it would almost make the Dodgers more versatile than they already are.
It may not take an 8- or 10-year commitment to get Harper or Machado at this point. If that’s the case, then that’s more up the Dodgers’ alley. Couple that with the fact the DH will likely be implemented by 2020 at the latest, and the team could set themselves up for sustained offensive success for a half-decade (or more) by taking advantage of this luxury.
I’m not expecting it to happen, but it really, really should.