If MLB adopts universal DH, hackers lack internal candidates beyond 1B Yoshi Tsutsugo

When MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the owners had agreed to adopt the universal designated hitter, he promised to end a National League tradition and force the Pittsburgh Pirates to adjust their roster.

For the first time since the baseball lockdown began on Dec. 2, Manfred spoke publicly at the owners’ meeting in Orlando on Thursday and said the owners had also agreed to institute a draft lottery and eliminate draft pick compensation, pending MLB Players Association approval.

“These changes will improve the free agent market by creating additional jobs that are often filled by veteran players and by reducing – in fact, eliminating – the compensation squeeze,” Manfred said.

“That doesn’t even get into valuing things like extra DH jobs, which are high-paying jobs rather than low-paying jobs, eliminating draft pick pay, which would tend to increase wages players. You talk about a lot of money.

That’s money National League teams haven’t had to spend on a designated hitter. The American League adopted the DH in 1973, but the NL had pitchers at bat every year except for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Last year, pitchers hit .108 and struck out in 45% of plate appearances, so the MLB Players Association should agree on a universal DH if they can agree on a new CBA.

For the Pirates, adding a DH might require another addition to the roster, as there are few internal candidates. It’s a position that has plagued them during the 60-game season in 2020, producing a .187/.272/.304 slant line with seven doubles, six home runs and 25 RBIs.

Pirates manager Derek Shelton expressed doubts that summer about the appointment of a DH, preferring positional flexibility to a player who served strictly as a hitter.

“It’s not easy to do,” said Shelton, a former Cleveland and Tampa Bay batting coach who also coached in Toronto and Minnesota. “It’s really not easy for a player in the National League to become a designated hitter, because you’re trying to figure out what your routine is, you’re trying to figure out whether to hit or not to hit. You are used to being in the field. It is something that becomes a learned trait.

“The guys you see who are really good at it, it takes them a while to do it. Most guys don’t go there early in their career or at a younger age in their career. They go there because they are more of an advanced hitter and know how to do it. I understand it is difficult. If the DH stays, that’s something we’re really going to have to work on and talk to our guys about their routines.

Splitting their duties between DH and first base proved disruptive for Josh Bell and Colin Moran in 2020. Bell was far more productive as a first baseman, batting .274/.338/.492 with eight home runs and 17 RBIs in 34 games over . 129 homers and five RBIs in 21 games at DH. He was traded to the Washington Nationals in December.

Moran fared slightly better, cutting .250/.320/.471 with four home runs and seven RBIs in 21 games at first base and .231/.330/.396 with three home runs and 13 RBIs in 26 games at DH. A converted third baseman, Moran admitted splitting time between DH and first base was an adjustment to his daily routine.

“It’s different, of course,” Moran said. “Bats are bats, and I try to take it that way. I definitely had more time to think. You’re just trying to adjust. The consistency of the beats every night is always a good thing. thing.

Moran, however, played just 99 games last season due to injuries and was made a free agent after being slated for assignment last fall. Although Cherington said the Pirates didn’t want to go to arbitration with Moran, who was slated to make $4 million in 2022, but would “keep the door open” for him to return to free agency.

For now, that leaves first baseman/outfielder Yoshi Tsutsugo as the primary candidate to serve as DH. The Pirates signed Tsutsugo to a one-year, $4 million free agent deal after going .268/.347/.535 with eight doubles, eight home runs and 25 RBIs in 43 games last season. He previously played for Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“I think we all saw once he got to Pittsburgh that some of the things he always did as a hitter were there,” Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said of Tsutsugo in December. last. “The ability to make good calls, good swing decisions, hit the ball in the air, hit with some impact, handle a bat against left-handers and right-handers. That’s what he’s been doing all his life, and for some reason there’s been a transition for him coming into the big leagues.

Tsutsugo, however, has a .186/.297/.343 slash line with five doubles, three home runs and six RBIs in 31 career games as a DH. The Pirates are short of inside replacements at first base, as six of the seven players who started there last season – Moran, John Nogowoski, Will Craig, Phillip Evans, Erik Gonzalez and Todd Frazier – are no longer with the club.

The Pirates might be forced to splash the cash on a DH veteran in free agency like Nelson Cruz, Mitch Moreland or Khris Davis. More likely, they will continue to get creative with a lineup that lacks big bats but may soon need them.

Kevin Gorman is an editor at Tribune-Review. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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