There is a strong possibility that the designated hitter will make its way to the National League in 2022 and beyond. How should the Padres adjust?
The current Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire in December, and many things are on the table that could change baseball for the foreseeable future. One of the items, one certainly that has strong bipartisan support, is the universal DH. Pitchers hitting is an archaic venture. It’s unwatchable and puts prized pitchers in dangerous situations that are completely unnecessary. Do we really need a $100 million pitcher tearing an ACL on the basepaths?
It’s not like the DH completely eliminates the use for a manager’s brain. Mostly gone are the days of an everyday DH who moves the speed of a sloth and is a one-trick pony. Now managers use the DH to give an everyday fielder half of a day off, giving him respite from the field while still keeping his lethal bat in the lineup. Another avenue is to use it to give touted prospects a chance to get their feet wet in the big leagues without giving them a complete baptism by fire. There could be a scenario where a player has a sore throwing shoulder but can still swing the bat. The DH has plenty of uses.
Love it or hate it, it seems likely the DH is coming to the National League in 2022 and beyond. This should excite most Padres fans since San Diego had a great deal of success in 2020 when the rule was temporarily implemented for the COVID-shortened season, on their way to ending a 14-year playoff drought.
If the DH is truly coming to the National League, that should influence how the Padres approach the 2021-2022 offseason. There are several big bats worth looking at that San Diego might not have considered last year when the universal DH was put on pause for 2021. The Padres were fourth in the NL in OPS in 2020. They dropped to eighth in 2021. The Padres need the designated hitter to return.
Nelson Cruz headlines a free-agent class full of solid DH candidates. The 41-year-old slugger is still playing at a high level, primarily thanks to the existence of the DH in the first place. He hit 32 home runs with a .832 OPS and 130 OPS+ last season for the Twins and Rays. Since 2014, he has averaged over 36 home runs per season with a .908 OPS and 147 OPS+. Plus, he is one of the most beloved and respected players in the game in the clubhouse. Who wouldn’t love a guy like that in Padres’ pinstripes? He likely would only sign with the Friars if the DH were in place.
Jorge Soler and Nick Castellanos are both still viable in the outfield, but maybe better fits long-term as a DH. Both have incredible power and can change the game in an instant. The former is coming off of winning the 2021 World Series MVP.
Castellanos hit 34 home runs with 100 RBI and was second among all outfielders with a .576 slugging percentage.
Kyle Schwarber, Michael Conforto, Joc Pederson, and Eddie Rosario could be potential designated hitters for the Padres in 2022. Even if they are not full-time DHers, they will add depth and allow the Padres some flexibility in who to play in the outfield versus designated hitter.
Even if the DH does not happen in the National League by some chance, the Padres need sluggers. They need reliable bats in the lineup that will drive in runs alongside Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Jake Cronenworth. The outfield may need a complete overhaul, and the outfielder and DH market is buzzing this winter.
Some moves may be necessary to clear room for the payroll freedom needed for such acquisitions, such as moving Wil Myers or Eric Hosmer this offseason. However, the Padres do it. They cannot afford to watch other teams improve while they remain stagnant.
The Padres should approach the winter, assuming the universal DH will happen. They cannot afford to sit idle and watch other teams snatch these sluggers up before them.