Although negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA are moving at a glacial pace, the two sides were able to agree that the designated hitter will be universal in both the American and National League.
This is not at all surprising and was always going to happen. The next time baseball is played, whenever that might be, pitchers will no longer hit. Let us take a moment of silence for #PitchersWhoRake.
What does this mean for our beloved Pittsburgh Pirates? Who can fill the role of DH on this team?
Luckily, the question has already been answered. I expect that Yoshi Tsutsugo will become the Pirates' full-time DH once the season begins.
This offseason, before the lockout began, Yoshi signed a one-year, $4 million deal with the team.
Last season with the Pirates, Tsutsugo was quite impressive offensively. Over 144 plate appearances, the hefty Japanese lefty hit .268/.347/.535 with eight home runs and had a wRC+ of 134.
His success with the Pirates blossomed because of his ability to heavily cut back on strikeouts (22.9 percent with the Pirates, well over 30 percent with the Rays and Dodgers in 2021). For his success to continue, his strikeout rate needs to hover in that lower 20 percent range.
Defensively, Yoshi wasn’t quite as bright. At first base, Tsutsugo was below-average. In right field, he was a disaster. This will no longer be a problem though as Yoshi won’t have to play in the field over long stretches. Come Opening Day, I fully expect Tsutsugo to bat fourth in the lineup, at the DH position.
What does this mean then for the first base position? Looking at the Pirates’ roster, Michael Chavis seems like the most logical choice to fill the role. In his career, Chavis has played 639 innings at first base and would be an upgrade defensively over Tsutsugo.
Perhaps Cole Tucker, who could be evolving into a super-utility guy, could get some time there as well (one inning at first base in 2021).
In terms of free agents, there might be a few cheap options. Can I interest anyone in Colin Moran, who the Pirates non-tendered earlier in the winter? Guys like Mitch Moreland and Travis Shaw are available as well.
The first base questions will be answered after the lockout. For now, though, take comfort in knowing that the Pirates have their DH.