For weeks, baseball front offices have had to try to put together offseason plans without knowing whether half the league’s teams will play with a designated hitter in 2021.
Adding a DH to the NL is something that has made sense from a competitive standpoint for a long time, is something the players have wanted for a long time, and is something the owners also want.
So, naturally, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred is saying “don’t count on it.”
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, teams were sent a memo by the league office last week telling them to operate under the assumption there will not be a DH in the National League in 2021.
We don’t know whether that memo came before last week’s non-tender deadline, but if it did, at least teams had some kind of guidance before making decisions on some defensively-challenged sluggers. For the Brewers, that specifically meant Dan Vogelbach, who signed a one-year deal to return, but others like Kyle Schwarber and Adam Duvall were non-tendered. Better late than never on that kind of guidance.
Of course, there are still plenty of other important questions about roster construction the league has not yet answered (at least publicly), including how many players will actually be on active rosters. The league’s original plan was to have 26-man rosters for the bulk of the 2020 season before expanding to 28 in September.
Ultimately, COVID-19 meant a larger roster to start the shortened season, but the league reportedly hasn’t committed to going back to the 26-man roster plan in 2021 (cynically, it would be one more major league salary owners would have to pay). You would think GMs would like to know how many roster spots they have to fill before camps open. But you’d also like to think NL GMs wouldn’t be kept in the dark for weeks on whether they’d have to fill a DH spot.
The Brewers likely wanted to bring Vogelbach regardless, especially considering he’s a potential power bat available for cheap, but it looks like we’ll be seeing him at first base more than we would have originally anticipated — or hoped.