After the designated hitter was used in both leagues in 2020, it remains to be seen if the National League will again have a DH next season or if NL pitchers will get one more crack at the plate. Commissioner Rob Manfred recently said that all rule changes made for the 2020 season wouldn’t carry through to 2021, and such ideas like a universal DH would have to be settled with input from both the league and the players’ union.
There has been some level of discussion on this front, ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan writes, with Major League Baseball offering the players implementation of the DH in both the National and American Leagues in exchange for the MLBPA signing off on an expanded playoff structure in 2021.
As Passan puts it, “understandably, the players don’t find that to be a particularly equitable trade.” Bringing the DH to both leagues would open up more employment opportunities and contract money for position players, as NL teams would need to address their lineup depth and veteran players with less defensive mobility would suddenly have more options. That said, the money available in an expanded DH market pales in comparison to the potential tens of millions in extra revenue the league would generate in TV revenue from extra playoff games. The format for this expanded postseason isn’t known; Manfred has floated the idea of a 14-team postseason in the past, rather than the 16-team format used in 2020.
It has long been assumed that the universal DH would eventually be implemented, perhaps as soon as the 2022 season since the current collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the Players Association is up after the 2021 campaign. However, with those CBA talks looming, negotiating even a one-year issue like a DH for the 2021 season inevitably leads into the tangled web of bigger-picture talks, like an expanded postseason.
This being said, the league’s offer may have been something of an “aim high” initial attempt just to see if the players would bite. Some executives tell Passan that they think the NL will have the designated hitter next season, with the MLBPA agreeing to a concession that isn’t more playoff teams.