The Pittsburgh Pirates may be adopting a full time designated hitter for the first time in Franchise history. At least, it sounds like a real possibility.
In 1973, the American League adopted the designated hitter. Then, in 1980, the National League held a vote for adopting the designated hitter. In what has become a very well known story, the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the teams that stopped the DH from coming to the National League. Then Pittsburgh Pirates General Manager, Harding Peterson, was told to vote the same way the Philadelphia Phillies did, who abstained. This stopped the DH from joining the National League and has since been the main difference between the two leagues.
Ever since Rob Manfred took over the Commissioner’s Office from Bud Selig, the DH coming to the National League has seemed like a real possibility. In 2018, the league discussed how to do that, but decided to wait until the next CBA to really consider it. The CBA is set to expire after the 2020 season and many are expecting the designated hitter to be universal in the new deal.
However, it now sounds like the “DH” role could be utilized by all 30 teams this season. Once again, this idea along with many other ones were tossed around a few weeks ago when the quarantine was put into place. Now Joel Sherman of the New York Post is reporting that the league is likely going to implement the DH this season. Sherman wrote in his post:
The gist of the plan emerged over the weekend and I can add a wrinkle — I heard that a DH will be used in both leagues, in part to protect pitchers who will have to ramp up to pitch in a shortened second spring.
Sherman references the health of the pitchers and safety of the umpires. While this is all true, many expect to see a few other experimental rules be put into place to this season. As I mentioned earlier, with the CBA expiring this could lead to some significant changes to Major League Baseball.
For the Pittsburgh Pirates, this is good news. Everyone knows Josh Bell is a below-average first baseman, even know he is much improved. Still, his value lies in his power bat, not his defense. This would set up an opportunity Bell to really focus on being a consistent, complete hitter.
Meanwhile, the team has plenty of options for first base. The first candidate that comes to mind is Jose Osuna who has received time at first base in each of the last few seasons. Then, of course, there is Will Craig in Triple-A, who was a first-round pick in 2016. His bat is still developing, but he has shown some power in the minors. Also, last year Craig won the Minor League Gold Glove for first base. He obviously would be a big upgrade in the field while giving the team another power threat.
The last option is a little more creative but could be best for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team could call up Ke’Bryan Hayes, and move Colin Moran to first, who played eight games at first in 2019 and four in 2017. However, with Moran being a left-handed hitter the team could utilize either Craig or Osuna as a defensive upgrade and/or a platoon partner. This would improve both offense and defense, with the defense getting two potential Gold Glove caliber fielders in Hayes and Craig.