The Mets especially need to know if there will be a DH in the National League for 2021. Why is it taking MLB so long to decide?
The Mets are being held up and taken hostage by Major League Baseball, and through neglect, the MLB Player’s Association.
Player personnel decisions are pending as to which of the Corona targeted rules changes for 2020 will be retained. Of special interest to the Mets as they build their roster for 2021 is the DH status.
Today, the designated hitter will not be in the National League in 2021, there will not be 16 playoff teams, seven-inning doubleheaders are out, and extra innings will not begin with a runner on second base.
But all of that could change with an agreement this winter between the players and owners.
Except for the DH, all of these rules can be held in abeyance until play begins in 2021. For teams like the Mets and Braves, though, they need to know if NL games will be played with a DH.
Mets Have Company In The Need To Know
For instance, the Braves would love to retain Marcell Ozuna, who turns 30 next month, and who made the majority of his starts this year as a designated hitter, but it’s impossible to know the years and dollars they will offer him in free agency.
A host of other NL players and teams benefited from the allowance of a DH. Veterans like Kyle Schwarber (Chicago Cubs), Ryan Braun (Milwaukee Brewers), and Howie Kendrick (Washington Nationals) all found productive playing time in 2020 as a DH.
Others like Alec Bohm (Philadelphia Phillies), the MLB Pipeline’s No. 30 overall prospects, and the consensus judgment were ready to hit in the big leagues. Still, it was not as clear that he was ready to handle the hot corner, where Jean Segura is the slated starter.
Similarly, the status of Dominic Smith hangs in the balance for the Mets. Smith is a hitting machine who is forced to play out of his normal position in the field at first base where Pete Alonso has a home for the next decade.
Mets: The DH And Dominic Smith
While Smith has dedicated himself to becoming an adequate major league left fielder for the Mets, there is no question the team is stronger with him playing most of his games, like Ozuna, as the designated hitter.
To strengthen their team for 2021, the Mets are looking to both the free-agent market and possible trades. Strength up the middle (cacher, centerfielder, and pitching) is what the Mets have targeted to improve the team.
Dominic Smith is a primary blue-chip prospect for the Mets to place on the table in exchange for quality at any of those positions with no DH next season.
Having said that, Smith in no way is considered expendable by the Mets, and like the Braves with Ozuna, the Mets would love to retain Smith.
However, the decision becomes easier with Smith doing his imitation of David Ortiz in their lineup.
The NL DH 2021: It Takes Two To Tango
MLB cannot act on the DH or any of the pending rules for 2021 without the approval of the Player’s Association.
Due to its value in adding years to a player’s career, it’s assumed the players will jump at the chance to retain the DH in the NL. Conversely, MLB, representing the owners, will likely be opposed, seeing the DH as applying mostly to veterans who have ascended to higher salaries over the years.
Complicating discussion between the two parties further is the expiration of the current bargaining agreement at the end of 2021, as each side sees the DH issue as a prelim to what will come next winter.
Mets: There’s Work To Be Done Behind The Scenes
If we assume that Steve Cohen, as the new Mets owner, sees value in retaining the DH for his club, then it behooves him to begin rounding up support among other team owners who can also benefit (we’ve identified a few above).
Similarly, Michael Conforto, the Mets player rep charged with interfacing directly with the player’s union and MLB, begin the same process on his end of responsibilities.
At some point, the matter will become public, with both sides scrambling for support in the media and fans.
By that time, assuming there will be differences, both sides will be dug in as we saw in the “negotiations” to open the 2020 season.
A lot can be accomplished working behind the scenes, though. In terms of team unity between Mets ownership and Mets players, a joint effort to retain the DH rule is another way for the organization to forge a new path leaving the Wilpons in the dust.