In light of the surprising and quite likely erroneous report that free agent Billy Butler is sitting on a three-year, $30 million offer, let’s take a quick look at who is actually searching for a DH this winter. There would seem to be plenty of options, with Victor Martinez, Butler and Kendrys Morales essentially locked in as a designated hitters and Nelson Cruz more valuable there than he is in the outfield. Fellow free agents Adam LaRoche, Mike Morse, Jonny Gomes, Josh Willingham, Delmon Young, Corey Hart and Ryan Ludwick could also be viewed as at least part-time designated hitters.
So, who needs a DH?
Baltimore: The Orioles will address the spot somehow, whether it’s re-signing Cruz or bringing in a part-time option to mix in with Steve Pearce.
Boston: This is the one team we can be certain won’t be signing any DH types.
New York: The Yankees will almost certainly need to rotate Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira in as designated hitters at times, making it highly unlikely that they’ll sign a regular for the position. They could add another role player who would DH on occasion.
Tampa Bay: The Rays are trying to reduce payroll. Ideally, they’d probably trade Matt Joyce or David DeJesus and then find a cheap part-time DH to help out, probably one of the guys who slips through the cracks.
Toronto: The Jays dealt Adam Lind in part because they wanted to increase their flexibility in the DH role. One angle that’s gotten some play is signing Russell Martin and putting Dioner Navarro into the DH mix, though that’s a long shot. It’s hard to imagine they’ll sign a Butler or a Morales, but they will want some help here.
Chicago: If Dayan Viciedo is back, it should be as a designated hitter. The White Sox, though, would be better off trading him and bringing in a mid-priced veteran.
Cleveland: Between Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana, the Indians are settled at DH and first base.
Detroit: The Tigers will certainly sign a designated hitter, though all they really want to do is retain Martinez.
Kansas City: The Royals will re-sign or replace Butler, but they’d probably prefer it wasn’t a full-time DH. They’re more worried about the pitching market right now, and it seems they’re rightfully figuring someone will fall into their laps laterr.
Minnesota: Between Kennys Vargas, Oswaldo Arcia and Josmyl Pinto, the Twins have more young designated hitter options than they know what to do with.
Houston: Jonathan Singleton looked bad enough last season that the Astros could consider adding a first baseman-DH to pair with Chris Carter. It’d likely be a cheap one, though.
Los Angeles: Since Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols both will likely need to spend some time DHing next year, the Angels won’t spend here. They’ll probably stick with C.J. Cron.
Oakland: Between their three-headed catching monster (Derek Norris, Stephen Vogt and John Jaso) and first base options like Brandon Moss, Kyle Blanks and Nate Freiman, the A’s should be covered here.
Seattle: The Mariners are the Tigers’ chief rival for Martinez, with Butler looming as a fallback. It’d be a surprise if they didn’t sign one of them or maybe Cruz.
Texas: The Rangers are saying they’ll tender Mitch Moreland, suggesting that he’ll be the primary DH with Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo also logging time there.
So, to wrap it up, that’s Detroit and Seattle almost surely signing starting DHs, with Kansas City and Baltimore in the probable camp and Chicago, Toronto and Tampa Bay as the maybes.
That’d seem to make it a buyer’s market. My guess is that the Tigers bring back Martinez and the Mariners sign Butler. If Cruz signs as a DH or one or two other teams decide on trades to plug the hole, that could leave Morales scrambling for work and potentially facing more competition from a field of non-tenders that could include Viciedo, Ike Davis and Juan Francisco.
In other words, if you’re a player not named Victor Martinez and you get a solid offer early, you should probably take it.