The National League has been told to work around the basis that the 2021 season will not include the designated hitter. That was just one of several things written about by Ken Rosenthal at The Athletic this morning. No designated hitter is likely bad news for the Cincinnati Reds more than it is for most other teams in the National League.
With the Reds outfield including four players who played mostly every day when everyone was healthy in 2020, it’s going to make for a much more difficult time for Cincinnati manager David Bell to work the lineup to get Nick Senzel, Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, and Shogo Akiyama the playing time and at-bats that they may have otherwise expected.
From the outside looking in, it feels like it will be Shogo Akiyama who could see the biggest decline in playing time if the other three players are healthy. He didn’t play much when a left-handed pitcher was on the mound last season. When Nick Senzel was healthy, he was starting in center almost every day. Perhaps a part of that was that the team had the designated hitter spot, meaning that Jesse Winker could slide into the role and maximize the defense and offense. But Akiyama, who did turn things around at the plate in the final month, just wasn’t close to matching the offensive output that Winker had in both 2020 and in previous seasons. And for a team that had a struggling offense that is looking to improve, Winker probably gets the edge in the “defense versus offense” question of value there.
There could be a bit of a saving grace, though. Both the owners and the players want the designated hitter in both leagues. What makes all of this so stupid and ridiculous is that while both want it, they are going to fight over it. In a relationship where even things they both want can’t just be agreed upon without the other side giving up something, there’s going to continue to be some back-and-forth on what that “something given up” is, and who will be giving it up. It’s never easy in baseball.