When the Mets played at Yankee Stadium on July 20, 2018, Asdrubal Cabrera was at second, Matt den Dekker was in center, Jose Bautista at third, Wilmer Flores at first and Devin Mesoraco behind the plate.
The designated hitter was Yoenis Cespedes. This was the last time he played a major league game.
You might remember that day as the only time since May 13, 2018, that Cespedes played — he was out with hip and quad injuries — and that after the game he dropped the bombshell that he needed surgery on both heels. Since then, Cespedes had a run-in with a wild boar that led to a right ankle fracture that cost him the entirety of the 2019 campaign and led to his 2020 salary being severely reduced.
Not much has gone well for him as a baseball player. But the possibility that the DH likely would be used universally if there is a 2020 season is a potential boon for Cespedes and the Mets should all the ifs be met: If games are played, if Cespedes is fully healthy, if he can stay healthy.
As opposed to July 20, 2018, when Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier also were on the injured list, the 2020 Mets project to have more bats than slots, perhaps as many quality hitters as just about any NL team. But they also have some players such as this version of Cespedes and J.D. Davis who you might prefer being limited to batting gloves only. For Cespedes, a free agent after the season, this could provide a showcase for AL teams (assuming the universal DH is not permanent) that he still has life at least left in his bat.
With health, the Mets would be able to play the defensively excellent Jake Marisnick in center and bat him ninth, flank him especially against righties with Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto, and use Cespedes or Davis often at DH. But they also could find more at-bats for Dominic Smith, including giving Pete Alonso DH days and using Smith at first. And one reason the Mets obtained Robinson Cano and the final five years of his contract was belief the DH was ultimately coming to the NL — maybe this will give them an early test try with this.
That is why I would pick the Mets No. 1 in the NL for which teams most benefit from adding a DH — their roster of hitters and defensive deficiencies make it a positive for them. The rest of the league:
2. Dodgers: The team with the most good players will generally benefit from any system implemented. And the Dodgers have the most good players in the NL. Remember that as part of the initial structure of the Mookie Betts trade, Joc Pederson was going to the Angels to allow Los Angeles to stay beneath the luxury-tax threshold. Now, having Pederson and so many multi-position players will give manager Dave Roberts a terrific grab bag of choices daily for the DH slot.
3. Brewers: Ryan Braun was going to be forced to first base so Milwaukee could have its preferred outfield of Lorenzo Cain, Avisail Garcia and Christian Yelich. Now the Brewers could use Logan Morrison or Justin Smoak at first and still have Braun’s productive bat.
4. Reds: There was a round-peg, square-hole element in signing Mike Moustakas to play out of position at second plus add the defensive suspect Nicholas Casellanos. Now, one of them can regularly DH.
5. Phillies: Rhys Hoskins moved from left to first last year and a move to designated hitter only might be his best fit. Also, the DH allows the Phils to use J.T. Realmuto’s strong bat as DH on days when he does not catch. With expected expanded rosters, teams can more comfortably carry a third catcher to make DHing Realmuto less risky. Also, this could be a way to help find at-bats for prospect Alex Bohm either at first, third or DH.
6. Braves: Touted prospects such as Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, both outfielders, are close to the majors. Having a way to get an extra bat into the lineup could make their transition easier while allowing the already deep Braves to be deeper.
7. Nationals: Lots of flexibility here with Howie Kendrick, Eric Thames or Ryan Zimmerman sharing first base and DH or, if the Nats want to put fourth outfielder Michael Taylor in the lineup, Juan Soto can DH.
8. Rockies: DH days for Charlie Blackmon and Daniel Murphy would provide a chance to see younger potential in the field more regularly.
9. Cubs: Haven’t we always been heading toward this concept: Kyle Schwarber, DH?
10. Cardinals: Rather than shoehorn Matt Carpenter’s suspect glove into the lineup, he could DH — though he will have to prove worthy after hitting .226 last year. Outfielder Dylan Carlson — like Pache and Waters — might be close to ready to help elongate a lineup.
11. Diamondbacks: Jake Lamb hasn’t stayed healthy the past two years. Could being the DH protect his body and revive his bat?
12. Padres: There has been a belief that Francisco Mejia is a hitter, not a catcher. This also provides a place to hide Jurickson Profar’s suspect defense.
13. Marlins: Jesus Aguilar is probably better equipped to DH than play first base. Perhaps having a DH in the NL will motivate a team to sign Yasiel Puig. Maybe this kind of team.
14. Giants: The most intriguing element would be if the Giants thought that Joey Bart — the No. 2 overall pick in 2018 — had developed enough to be brought to the majors as a part-time catcher/DH. Remember there is probably not going to be a minor league system, so rebuilding teams in particular might have to find major league reps to keep prospects sharp and growing.
15. Pirates: Perhaps Jose Osuna can be placed at DH and help an offense not projected to be very good.
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