Universal DH Makes NL Central Strongest Division
Kyle Schwarber Perfect Fit For Regular DH Role
Kyle Schwarber, at long last, will be where he belongs. No, the Reds have not traded for the Southwestern Ohio native, so he is still a member of the Chicago Cubs.
His role with that team, however, will likely be a very different one, assuming that MLB adheres to the plan currently being touted. When the 2020 season resumes, the designated hitter will be universal.
That rule will certainly benefit Schwarber, who has been forced to play left field because the National League has no DH. His other possible position, first base, has already been taken over by All-Star slugger Anthony Rizzo.
Chicago is not the only team in the Senior Circuit that already has a player well-suited for the role of DH, as you can see by looking at some of the biggest rivals of the Cubs. Milwaukee has for the past four seasons been looking for a regular position for its most well-known player, a former Most Valuable Player who because of age has lost much of his range on defense.
Earlier in his career Ryan Braun had been the regular third baseman, and after a few seasons he switched to the outfield. The Brewers have acquired defensively-challenged offensive stalwarts over the last half decade, guys like Eric Thames and Mike Moustakas and Jesus Aguilera, so Braun has seen his at bats limited.
Now he can be assured of regular opportunities serving as the Milwaukee DH, a position that should also help a team hoping to surpass the Brewers in the N.L. Central. Having spent a record amount of cash on free agents over the winter, the Reds have acquired a surplus of outfielders.
In addition to young stars Aristedes Aquino, Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker, Cincinnati has brought aboard Nick Castellanos as well as Moustakas. Even if the latter adjusts to second base, there are still plenty of viable options for a regular DH.
Division rival St. Louis could have netted more benefit from the DH last year, when it was seeking to get regular swings for slugger Jose Martinez. He has since been dealt to Tampa Bay, but the Cardinals can still take advantage of the DH rule.
Most important, it could end up adding a few years onto the career of future Hall of Famer Yadier Molina. Having his bat in the lineup is crucial for the Cards but, because of his strenuous duties as catcher, his offensive opportunities have become limited as he ages.
By serving as the DH several times a week, Molina not only serves his team by being in the lineup, but also allows him to recover from the physical toll of being a backstop. That rest could prolong his career by a few years, which is bad news for the rest of the N. L. Central.
Although they are not likely to contend for the division crown this year, the rebuilding Pirates could still benefit from the DH rule. Slugger Jose Osuna, who is limited to right field or first base, has averaged double figures in home runs in limited at bats over the past three years. Sort of like fellow Big Leaguer Eric Thames, his closest match according to baseball-reference, Osuna would be a regular right handed power threat near the middle of Pittsburgh's lineup.