In exchange for extending the DH to the NL, MLB asked for an expanded postseason again this year, which caused the union to balk, as first reported by MLB Network. The issue for the union could be an asymmetry between the two bargaining chips, given that: a.) the universal DH is thought to also have appeal to MLB executives, just not to the degree it has to the MLBPA, and b.) there is much more money at stake with the expanded playoff, with that revenue going mostly to team owners.
Another problem for the proposed re-implementation of the expanded playoff, which went from 10 to 16 teams last year, is that some players fear it could depress free agency spending. If it takes fewer wins to reach the postseason, teams might not feel as much urgency to shell out for high-value players. (A counterargument could be that more owners might believe their teams have a shot at the postseason and would be emboldened to pursue roster upgrades.)
The uncertainty over whether the NL will have a DH this season has complicated teams’ decisions in free agency, which began in November. After George Springer agreed to a six-year, $150 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, there was speculation that the New York Mets, who had been linked to him, might have gone harder after the former Houston Astros outfielder if they knew they had a DH spot.
As noted Monday by the Athletic, sluggers such as Marcell Ozuna and Nelson Cruz are waiting to see if there will be more of a market for their services and, in turn, some teams could be delaying certain roster decisions until they have more clarity.
“It’s just kind of hanging over everyone’s head,” an NL executive said last month to Sports Illustrated. “Like, What is the deal?”
Several weeks later — and less than a month before pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training — there still is no deal between MLB and its union that would allow for a DH on all teams.
MLB’s collective bargaining agreement expires in December, and many observers expect to see a universal DH in 2022 after it is adopted in a new CBA. How that issue will be resolved for the upcoming season remains to be seen, but Monday’s impasse did nothing to dispel NL pitchers’ plans to work on their bunting skills.