While this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone, it seems that whenever we do get baseball back in 2022 that the designated hitter is coming to the National League. Rob Manfred noted this week that the owners “conceded” the universal designated hitter and that both sides have agreed to it. I put conceded in quotes because it’s not really a concessions – both sides wanted it to happen, but the owners were simply trying to use it as a bargaining point for some reason.
For the Cincinnati Reds it’s going to be something new-ish. Since the league began interleague play teams in the National League have sparingly had the opportunity to use a designated hitter. In the shortened 2020 season the Reds had one every day. But it now seems that moving forward the Reds and their National League compadres will be enjoying adding a bat to their lineup and risking less injuries to pitchers at the plate or on the basepaths. And as an aside, it also helps teams in the National League out a bit in free agency as they can now offer slightly better terms for players who may, near the end of a deal, need to slide to the designated hitter role.
It doesn’t seem likely that the Cincinnati Reds are going to be going out and looking to sign any big free agent that would come in and fill out a designated hitter role. Whoever serves in that role for the Reds is likely already on the roster. There isn’t exactly someone that stands out as a perfect option, though. Jesse Winker served in the role for much of the 2020 season. That year included a Cincinnati team that had Nick Castellanos and he’s no longer a Red. It was also the first year that Shogo Akiyama was on the team and Cincinnati was more committed to getting him playing time than perhaps they are today.
Mike Moustakas, like Jesse Winker, isn’t known for his defensive prowess at this point in his career. And on top of that, the position he was signed to play – second base – was overtaken by 2021 Rookie of the Year Jonathan India. That alone may actually make it an easier decision for manager David Bell on most days. A lineup that includes Winker, India, and Moustakas is probably the best fit and the designated hitter can certainly allow that.
With that said, both Moustakas and Winker are left-handed hitters who don’t have a stellar history against left-handed pitching. When a lefty is on the mound there’s probably a good chance that some right-handed hitters take over in the lineup for at least one of those two guys, if not both. Who those options are may depend on how the roster and lineup shake out. Nick Senzel and centerfield come into play here. As does Jose Barrero and shortstop and or centerfield. If those two players aren’t starting, but are on the 26-man roster, they may be the guys that battle for right-handed side of a designated hitter spot. Maybe Aristides Aquino looks more like the 2019 version of himself than the 2020/2021 version. If that’s the case then his role could come into play, both directly or indirectly if he’s slotted into right field and that pushes someone else to the bench (or center, for example with Tyler Naquin).
There are a plethora of options for how this all plays out. Health will matter. How the outfield shakes out defensively will come into play. How the shortstop position plays out could factor in, too. It’s likely that for the most part that Mike Moustakas seems to be the guy that makes the most sense when a right-handed starter is on the mound. But there will be a lot of times when a lefty is out there and that could lead to a handful of guys getting opportunities in the lineup that they may otherwise not have gotten.