During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Major League Baseball made the DH universal. The long-held expectation is that as part of the next collective bargaining agreement, which will need to be agreed to before the 2022 season, the DH will be made universal on a permanent basis. 2021, however, remains in limbo.
At this juncture, the DH returning to the National League for the 2021 season isn’t agreed upon, meaning the senior circuit is currently slated to have a return of pitchers hitting next season, something that would please certain pitchers that like hitting, such as Zach Wheeler.
However, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that “MLB and the players’ union are expected to resume negotiations early in the month on continuing the DH in the National League in 2021 and possibly beyond.” There’s no guarantee that the two sides will ultimately come to an agreement, but they are seemingly motivated to do so if the discussions are taking place.
From the Phillies perspective, Phil Gosselin and Jay Bruce were the team’s primary options used at DH in 2020, though both are free agents, and it’s unclear if either will return. Phillies Nation‘s Jonny Heller has suggested that the team could consider a reunion with Brad Miller if the DH returns in 2021, but they’d seemingly like to have some at-bats open for internal options.
Andrew McCutchen still flashed some offensive ability in 2020, but struggled mightily in the field as he returned from a torn ACL, posting -8 defensive runs saved in 302.0 innings in left field. McCutchen, 34, is due $20 million in 2021, so he’s going to be on the Phillies in some form. At a minimum, you’d like to have some at-bats available for McCutchen as a DH in 2021.
We don’t yet know if J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius will return to the Phillies in 2021, but Bryce Harper clearly benefited from being able to get off his feet as he managed a back injury in the second half of the 2020 season. Rhys Hoskins had surgery to repair his left UCL in October, which came with a four-to-six month timetable. Even at first base, we don’t know if he’ll be able to play in the field at the beginning of next season.
Beyond the Phillies’ aspect, there are free agents like Marcell Ozuna, Nelson Cruz and DJ LeMahieu whose markets could be quite a bit better if the DH is available to National League teams next season.
Truth be told, it’s not fair that National League teams don’t yet know if the DH will return in 2021. Perhaps there will be a resolution on this, among other rule changes, before the new year.
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