While the Chicago Cubs and the rest of Major League Baseball wait for a new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and Major League Baseball’s Players association, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed a rule change that will stand to benefit the Cubs when the season starts.
During the shortened 2020 season, Major League Baseball first tested the idea of a universal designated hitter rule. The rule would serve as a balance between the American League and National League as both leagues would utilize the designated hitter rule as opposed to the pitcher having to hit. When Major League Baseball returned to a 162-game regular season in 2021, it was agreed that the Universal Designated hitter rule would not be implemented and pitchers would return to hitting for National League teams.
The belief was that 2021 season would serve as the final season in which there was not a universal designated hitter rule and that belief was confirmed on Thursday. In his update to reporters regarding the negotiations between Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball’s Players association, Manfred confirmed that the owners have agreed to a universal designated hitter rule.
Beginning with the 2022 season and beyond, the Cubs will now have a designated hitter in their starting lineup for every game. During the 2020 season, the Cubs designated hitter spot was a revolving door of sorts as manager David Ross used that as a spot to give veterans such as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, and Willson Contreras a break from playing in the field while still having their bat in the lineup. It’s possible that Ross may explore a similar idea for the Cubs’ designated hitter spot in 2022 but that shouldn’t be decided before the team finalizes any potential free agent signings.
The agreed upon universal designated hitter rule in Major League Baseball will benefit the Chicago Cubs.
With Major League Baseball teams unable to sign free agents to Major League contracts during the MLB lockout, the Cubs have yet to address the holes in their lineup. Outside of Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel, and even those two are not guaranteed sources of power, it is unclear where the power will come from in the Cubs’ starting lineup.
There is no doubt that the Cubs certainly will give the Schwindel and Wisdom the opportunity to built off their successful 2021 campaigns, but with them playing first base and third base respectively, the Cubs are not a clear match for any of the free agent power hitters that are on the market. Among those free agent power hitters are four players that have a direct tie to the Cubs in Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber and outifelder Nick Castellanos.
Bryant likely is not headed back to the Cubs but it is fairly reasonable to suggest that the team will be interested in Rizzo, Schwarber, and Castellanos once free agency resumes. Neither of the three are a great defensive fit for the Cubs but the universal designated hitter does provide with renewed potential value to the team.