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How No Universal DH Affects the Marlins in 2021

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One of the silver-linings in what was a strange 2020 season was the implementation of the universal DH-rule. Now, NL teams are being told to prepare for a reversion to a one-DH league.

Miami Marlins v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

To say the National League was in need of the designated hitter would be as much a certainty as suggesting that Rougned Odor may not be the most disciplined hitter at the plate.

In what was the most trying year of Major League Baseball in recent memory, arguably one of the highlights of this past season was the decision to experiment with a universal DH. Gone were the days of worrying about a pitcher injuring himself in the batter’s box or running the bases; a temporary send-off to the likes of when Adam Wainwright tore his Achilles while batting in a 2015 game.

In an era where contracts are getting bigger and analytics essentially run the way in which rosters are constructed, the idea of still allowing pitchers a spot in the batting order seems relatively primitive.

What good does the adage of “chicks dig the long ball” do when there’s a near-guaranteed out in the lineup every night?

For teams such as the Miami Marlins, who are currently operating on a relatively conservative budget in the wake of this recent rebuild, any means of added offense can only aid their chances in a topsy-turvy NL East.

Despite the NL experimenting with the DH in 2020, the Marlins finished the season with a team OPS+ of 92, tied with the Kansas City Royals for 15th in the majors.

A majority of the team’s at bats at designated hitter were shared by Garrett Cooper and Jesús Aguilar, the latter of which was tendered a contract for $4.35 million for 2021.

Should the DH cease to operate in the Senior Circuit, Aguilar projects to receive the majority of the starts at first base, leaving the option for the aforementioned Cooper to play right field.

This would limit the team from adding more offensive weapons via free agency, as the likes of, say, recent non-tender Kyle Schwarber, could serve as cost-effective solutions to an offensively feeble lineup, as well as serve an attractive trade chip come July should the team be out of contention amid a bounce back from the 2016 World Champion.

However, were the sport to ride with the universal DH moving forward, Miami could give prospect Lewin Diaz a shot at grabbing the everyday job at first base. Diaz, the team’s 8th ranked prospect according to MLB.com, struggling in 41 plate appearances in his first stint at the majors this past season, hitting just .154 but showing promise defensively, saving 2 runs per defensive runs saved in limited action.

All in all, the notion of saving pitchers from injury as well further boosting offense sport-wide only makes retaining the universal DH that much more novel a concept. To abstain from doing so would serve as another bruise on Rob Manfred’s already clumsily-executed body of work as commissioner.