I wrote yesterday on Major League Baseball’s upcoming attempt to return for a 2020 season. The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball presented the plan to MLB owners today and it met with their approval. That plan will now be forwarded to the Player’s Association on Tuesday for what is expected to begin a process of negotiations.
There are two specific pieces of the reported proposal from a game aspect that could help the Philadelphia Phillies if play actually gets underway this year. Those two aspects would be the expansion of available player rosters and the inclusion of a Designated Hitter position.
Rosters may expand to as many as 50 players with far greater flexibility on a temporary basis regarding things like options and protection. This would allow the Phillies to carry a number of non-roster veterans who took part in spring training but may not have ultimately made the original Opening Day roster to join the club for the 2020 regular season.
Players who could conceivably be added to the bench and substitution mix would then include catchers Christian Bethancourt and Deivy Grullon as well as infielders Logan Forsythe, Phil Gosselin, Josh Harrison, Ronald Torreyes, and Neil Walker. Also in the mix would be outfielders Kyle Garlick, Nick Williams, Mikie Mahtook, Nick Martini, and Matt Szczur.
Also, the Phillies are not one of the deepest organizations in baseball as far as big-league ready prospect talent is concerned. However, there are only so many positions available on a baseball diamond at any particular time. You don’t need a dozen top prospects to help contend in the short-term, a handful will do, and the Phillies have those.
In a year during which Minor League Baseball would be completely shut down, top Phillies prospects Alec Bohm, Spencer Howard, and Mickey Moniak would certainly be making their big-league debuts. The bullpen also would be bolstered by arms that might normally have begun in the minors or been released at the end of spring training.
Those arms would include a few from among right-handers Anthony Swarzak, Drew Storen, Blake Parker, Reggie McLain, Enyel De Los Santos, Edgar Garcia, Robert Stock, Connor Brogdon, J.D. Hammer, and Trevor Kelley.
No one is saying that these players would add All-Star caliber talents to the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies. That is not the point at all. The point is that with more options available the club is more likely to hit on those handful of opportunistic hot players needed to bolster an already solid group of regulars over a shortened season with expanded playoff opportunities.
Joe Girardi has tremendous experience in his prior managerial role with the New York Yankees in utilizing the Designated Hitter position. That experience would certainly come in handy. And the Phillies in particular have a number of players who could potentially benefit where the position is concerned.
With the DH in Philly and with expanded roster flexibility you could see Jay Bruce starting at first base against tough right-handers, with Nick Williams, Roman Quinn, and Adam Haseley as left and center field options to join Bryce Harper. They would join Walker, who could also play first, and Martini as possible DH options.
Against tough left-handers, Bohm could join the lineup, either as the DH or playing first or third base with Rhys Hoskins or Jean Segura getting the DH role. Also, this would be a way for the Phillies to ease Andrew McCutchen‘s way back into the lineup should his surgically repaired knee require a little more time.
Traditionalists and purists such as myself are simply going to have to accept it – the DH is coming to the National League, and not just on a one-year emergency basis. In fact, were it not for a fishing trip taken by Phillies owner Ruly Carpenter in mid-August 1980, some indecision on the part of club president Bill Giles, and the limits of communications technology in those days, the NL would today be readying for its 40th year with the Designated Hitter.
Every other team is going to have similar expanded roster opportunities. However, teams expected to be on the contending periphery such as the Phillies could be pushed over the top by a few players who receive an opportunity to help who might not under normal circumstances.
It all remains to be seen. Heck, playing a 2020 Major League Baseball season at all remains to be seen. But if we do get underway the Phillies should have a number of interesting options to help push the club back to the postseason for the first time in nine years.