Possibility of universal DH could affect roster decisions

designated hitter
Jim Davis/Getty Images

CARLSBAD, Calif. — If the universal designated hitter returns to the National League for good next season as many people believe, don’t be looking for the role to be filled with prototypical aging superstars who no longer play a position.

While some teams might need to do some adjusting to fill a DH roster spot, many other clubs will roll right into the new era using a number of players whose bats can stay in the lineup as a DH while they get a rest from playing the field.

It’s just that some general managers wouldn’t mind knowing sooner rather than later as they begin putting together rosters for next season. With labor uncertainty looming, the universal DH likely will be one of the last items determined in a new collective bargaining agreement as part of a compromise between owners and the players’ association during negotiations.

One of those GMs is Alex Anthopoulos of the World Series champion Atlanta Braves.

The Braves acquired four outfielders in July after star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury. Three of those players – Joc Pederson, Eddie Rosario and Series MVP Jorge Soler – are free agents, and the DH uncertainty might affect how many the Braves try to bring back or replace.

“We know that we have (Adam) Duvall and Acuna under control. So I would think we are likely to sign or trade for some type of outfielder. But I’m not sure yet, I guess,” Anthopoulos said. “I think we’re waiting to see how some things go. Is there going to be a DH or not? Things like that.

“I think we have to assume, like anything, like we did last year, right now, we deal with it with the rules that we have.”

If the DH does come to the NL for good – it was used for the 2020 pandemic-shortened season – teams believe there will be several ways to fill the position.

“I think if you can have a David Ortiz, every team in baseball will take a guy like that, right?” Anthopoulos said. “And if not, then people like to move guys in an out and so on, so it all depends. I think just like anything else, I think it all depends on the player.”

Anthopoulous wasn’t the only executive to mention Ortiz, the former Boston Red Sox star. Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer was an assistant GM in Boston for several seasons as Ortiz became a superstar.

“When you have a guy like that, it makes it really easy,” Hoyer said. “If you don’t, it’s a question of whether you have someone just locked in or whether you rotate guys through to get off their legs.”

Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo doesn’t anticipate having to scramble if the universal DH is adopted.

“There’s a lot of ways to skin a cat, and you can build your roster whatever way you see fit with the personnel that you have,” Rizzo said. “There’s a whole bunch of different ways to attack the DH question.”

The AL has had the DH since 1973. With the advent of interleague play in 1997, AL pitchers have had to hit when playing in NL parks.

Oakland Athletics GM David Forst said his NL counterparts shouldn’t have any problem filling the DH spot if it’s adopted. He also said interleague games at NL ballparks will be more enjoyable for him.

“My first thought if the NL has the DH is, thank God our pitchers don’t ever have to hit again,” Forst said. “I mean there’s a lot of ways to fill that spot. You’re seeing fewer and fewer teams have a dedicated designated hitter. A lot of teams are valuing the versatility on their roster.”

Although Houston has been in the AL since 2013, a universal DH might dampen manager Dusty Baker’s enthusiasm during interleague play. Baker managed for 22 years in the NL before taking over the Astros in 2020.

“I have not seen Dusty Baker as happy as he was when he was managing in NL parks,” Astros GM James Click said. “Dusty really loves the National League game, and so from that perspective, if there’s a universal DH I think he’ll be fine, but he made no secret about the fact he was very excited to be managing in some National League parks last year.”

And then there was Astros pitcher Zack Greinke, who hit a single during his Game 4 start at Atlanta and then became the first pitcher to record a pinch hit in the World Series since 1923 when he singled in Game 5.

“I enjoyed watching Zack Greinke hit as much as anybody,” Click said. “That was a lot of fun. It’s just a different game. I don’t think too hard about it one way or the another, either way, just as long as they let us know what rules we’re playing under.”

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.