OK, the timing and subject of this piece might seem weird considering there are bigger fish to fry today, but hear me out …
First things first: In the world that I’d prefer to live the rest of my life, I still don’t want to see the designated hitter in the National League, primarily for reasons I discussed here. But I’m going to admit that over the past year, I’ve been worn down on this, partly because so many pitchers themselves have completely given up on trying to hit, partly because there are newer, even more cockamamie rules that I’m more eager to get rid of. (Maybe later this year, I’ll write about my grand distaste for the year-old runner-on-second rule in extra innings.)
But in the wake of the exciting reports Thursday about the Dodgers’ apparent acqusition of Max Scherzer and Trea Turner — reports that others are covering at length — I have a more selfish reason to want the DH to arrive in the NL by 2022.
It might be the only way Corey Seager returns to the Dodgers.
Presumably, once he arrives in Los Angeles and is un-sidelined by covid, Trea Turner will primarily play second base for the Dodgers, with Seager returning from the injured list within the next week to shortstop. Any other approach would be too disruptive. Arguably, the best defensive alignment for the new-look Dodgers might be with Seager at third base, Trea Turner at shortstop, Max Muncy at second base and Justin Turner at first, but that would be quite an earthquake to self-generate two months before the postseason.
Next year is another story, and I don’t mean Trevor. The 27-year-old Seager is going to be a free agent this winter, and the 28-year-old Trea is not. Also, Trea is not likely to be as amenable to not playing his favorite position in 2022, at least without a massive contract extension. (Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am.) And if Trea gets that massive contract extension, the odds decrease that the Dodgers do the same for Seager.
All-Star Chris Taylor (soon to be 31) is also a free agent this winter, but in the wake of the hole left by fellow multi-positional whiz Kiké Hernández’s departure and Zach McKinstry’s inability to fill it, I feel like the Dodgers will find a way to bring back Taylor. And then maybe there is no room for Seager, not at the price he would cost.
Unless the DH arrives in the NL.
If that happens, the position jockeying is easy. Justin Turner becomes the Dodgers’ main DH, Seager slides over to third base, Trea plays short, Taylor plays second base (for the most part) and Muncy plays first.
Even before Thursday’s trade news, I’ve seen many a Dodger fan online argue that Seager is not worth the risk of a long-term deal, because he is injury-prone. Yes, Seager had two surgeries relatively early in his career. But he came back in 2019 and since then, has been a full-time player except for this year’s fluke hit-by-pitch injury. And lest we forget, Seager was the best hitter in the world in October 2020. While Mookie Betts was rightfully electrifying the nation, it was Seager who won the NLCS and World Series MVP awards. As for this year, Seager had a bit of a slow start but was rounding nicely into form when a Ross Detwiler pitch fractured his right hand.
Seager is not Cody Bellinger, who is capable of greatness (yes, still) but whose offensive stats look like an EKG readout. Seager has an approach that is as likely as any current Dodger to carry him as a hitter for the next 10 years. If he ends moving from shortstop to third base to first base to designated hitter along the way, so be it. If he doesn’t play 162 games a season, so be it. Seager is a real-deal hitter. Do you really want to say goodbye to him at age 28? I sure don’t.
I am excited to see Trea Turner in a Dodger uniform – I think I’m more excited about him than I am about Scherzer, which is saying something. But if the move pushes Seager out, I might always remember this trade with a tinge of sadness as well.
So since the designated hitter is probably coming to the NL under a new labor agreement (assuming the parties can agree) anyway, I say, bring it on, so that Los Angeles can bring back Seager.