MLB free agents like Kyle Schwarber already had legit market value. But with the universal DH rule now official, this group can suddenly count on a much longer list of suitors.
Baseball is back after a 99-day lockout that tested the resolve of every last fan who saw March roll around with no Spring Training to speak of. But the game that officially resumes regular season play on April 7 won’t be the same one we watched in 2021.
That’s right: Welcome to the Universal DH Era.
The days of writing National League pitchers into the No. 9 spot as a near-automatic out are over, with the designated hitter now the law of the land across the whole, wide MLB. And with players now permitted to sign with teams again, Boardroom got to thinking about which free agents out there on the big board suddenly have more market value now that the NL features a year-round DH.
We submit five for your consideration — including the reigning MVPs of both the NLCS and the World Series.
OF/1B Kyle Schwarber
UPDATE 3/16: Kyle Schwarber signed with the Phillies for four years and $80,000,000.
SchwarBombs are an institution unto themselves, but perhaps just as important in the calculus that factors into signing a guy like Kyle Schwarber is the extent to which he’s a defensive liability no matter where you attempt to stash him: left field, first base, you name it.
As a guy who started 2021 in the NL with the Nationals before switching leagues to return to the Boston Red Sox, he’s the perfect posterboy for these Universal DH times — expect teams like the Phillies and Rockies to have their ears perked up.
OF Jorge Soler
Previous team: Atlanta Braves
Expired contract: 1 year, $8,250,027
2021 salary: $8,250,027
In the 2021 postseason, unsuspecting fans around the league witnessed #SolerPower. Former Kansas City Royal Jorge Soler’s monster home run in Game 6 of the World Series put an exclamation point on the Fall Classic and put a bow on what became the Braves’ first championship since 1995, earning the Cuban slugger World Series MVP honors.
And a universal DH negates any conversations about whether the 30-year-old is resigned to be part of a platoon for an NL club with solid outfield coverage. In fact, the rule change significantly increases the chances he returns to the ATL, but that possibility is mitigated by the presence of another player on our list.
1B Anthony Rizzo
UPDATE 3/16: Anthony Rizzo re-signed with the Yankees for two years and $32,000,000.
Previous team: New York Yankees
Expired contract: 7 year, $41,000,000
2021 salary: $16,500,000
Three-time All-Star Anthony Rizzo is at a bit of a crossroads at age 32, but any team wondering if the lefty first baseman will retain the get-up-and-go that landed him four Gold Gloves (and a 2016 World Series ring) as a member of the Chicago Cubs can now rest assured in this new DH era of ours.
He still swings an above-average bat. And if certain rumblings are to be believed, a return to Wrigley Field could even be in the cards.
OF Eddie Rosario
UPDATE 3/16: Eddie Rosario re-signed with the Atlanta Braves for two years and $18,000,000 guaranteed.
Previous team: Atlanta Braves
Expired contract: 1 year, $8,000,000
2021 salary: $8,000,000
Remember when Eddie Rosario became Mickey Mantle for two weeks? The unlikely MVP of the 2021 NLCS caught fire of an otherwordly magnitude down the stretch for the Braves, an unlikely turn of events following a deadline acquisition that took place while he was still occupying the Cleveland Guardians’ injured list.
So, is NLCS “Super Rosario” the real Eddie? Probably not. But given the inconsistency of his outfield glove, a few more teams are suddenly in play for him under the rules of baseball’s new CBA. Expect the Braves to decide between him and Soler.
OF Nelson Cruz
UPDATE 3/13: Nelson Cruz signed with the Washington Nationals for one year and $15,000,000 guaranteed.
Previous team: Tampa Bay Rays
Expired contract: 1 year, $13,000,000
Oh, Nelly Cruz, how do you keep doing what you do? One of the most underrated, eternal power hitters of this baseball generation is still soldiering on into his 40s and has no plans to hang ’em up after starting the 2021 season with the Twins and finishing it with the Rays.
Cruz has played exclusively in the American League since departing Milwaukee for the Rangers following the 2005 (!) season, his very first in the bigs. A seven-time All-Star whose latest appearance in the Midsummer Classic came last season shortly after turning 40, Cruz rounds out our list as its only member with a chance to one day — perhaps — make the Hall of Fame.
And it’s hard to think of very many teams ready to roll out a designated hitter more fearsome than this man, whose 32 dingers last year upped his career total to an incredible 449.