With the news last week that Major League Baseball will go to a designated universal hitter, American League teams like the Chicago White Sox could end up benefiting from the legislation. When reports surfaced, it was the first time since 1973 (when the AL enforced the DH rule) that both leagues would play under the same rules.
While teams in every league have guys on their rosters and in the minors who could be classed as “all hit, gloveless,” AL players who fit that bill will now find that the job market for their services has expanded. In this scenario, the White Sox and other “junior circuit” teams could fill holes in their rosters by moving players with limited playing time on the field at best.
Take the example of White Sox outfielder Eloy Jimenez. The team isn’t looking to move him at the moment, but he’s been widely talked about as a liability on the pitch after being injured in spring training last season.
The fact that he is a mediocre outfielder at best makes him a perfect candidate to be a DH since his bat is a huge asset to the White Sox roster. He would likely fetch a nice return in a trade if the Sox looked to move him, especially to an NL team looking to find a guy to add power to the middle of their roster.
The Chicago White Sox could benefit from the fact that every NL team needs a DH now.
When Jimenez returned from his injury in July, the idea of him being a DH was brought up and he played the part of a good soldier when he said:
“If he (manager Tony LaRussa) asks me, I’m here for my team. Even if I don’t like it, I’m here to be for my team. No matter what he wants me to play, I will be there.
It’s obvious Jimenez doesn’t just want to be a DH, which is likely true for a number of players who could be seen in that role, like Kyle Schwarber or Jorge Soler. However, this opens the possibility for more teams to compete for their services with the possibility of entering the field from time to time.
Free agents on the market like Schwarber, Soler, Nick Castellanos and Michael Conforto might be able to extend their careers and get longer offers from teams eager to add their bats to their rosters. Teams could put better everyday defensive players on the field while still having the advantage of having these powerful bats in their lineups.
The Sox are currently in a position where they have young talent who could be moved around to fill needs such as second base, right fielder or a starting pitcher. Andrew Vaughn, Adam Engel, Gavin Sheets and Jake Berger are a few guys with nice upsides that NL teams might be interested in their services.
With DH in play, if guys like this were hitting like they are capable of, any defensive deficiencies could be tolerated. That’s not to say the Sox are currently looking to move those players, either.
However, NL teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks or Philadelphia Phillies might be willing to part ways with a Ketel Marte or Jean Segura for a young player who has offensive potential and comes with a reasonable contract (which could slip in the role of DH).
NL teams might already have guys who could DH in their pipelines, but they might choose to look to AL teams for hitters who have filled that role before and could help their clubs now. The debate about whether DH is a good thing will continue, but the reality is that it will be there and teams will have to adapt to it. How they approach that might be a more interesting topic of debate.