MLB Rules for 2021 are Still Undecided, What Could That Mean for the Pirates?

So many things have been changed by the events of 2020, it’s hard to keep up. Not just in baseball of course, many of us in the real world have no clue when or if we’ll ever see the people we were tired of sitting next to at work as of February.

One thing we have to go on is the league doesn’t plan on starting late, the Pirates are scheduled to start Spring Training games on February 27th in Bradenton. That means you can expect Pitchers and Catchers to report somewhere around the 13th. That’s a little over 4 and a half months from now.

I’m sure some of you are doctors, or have some kind of special insight because of what you do for a living but even given that, none of us can truly know that everything will go off without a hitch. So, it’s fair to say MLB needn’t be in a huge rush to finalize the rules for 2021, at least not before the World Series is over.

But not all rules are created equal, some of them will affect roster construction. I mean we’re talking about a rule as simple as do we or do we not have a universal DH.

The argument over making the DH universal typically comes from potentially losing a form of baseball literally only played in the National League. I’ll be honest, I was one of the people who wanted nothing to do with the DH coming to my town. Watching this season, I still from a purely strategic point of view prefer the non-DH game, I like using the bench, making calls about pinch hitting for a pitcher in the 5th, rally’s starting at the ‘wrong’ time like the 7 hitter with a lead off single.

That said I watched this season, still am for that matter, and aside from the strategy aspect, I guess I wound up not being too bothered by it. Point is I could give or take it, but if I’m a team executive (if you saw my car you’d know I’m not), I kinda want to know, and like, soon.

If there is a DH, the Pirates have options on the table that really don’t work well if the NL bucks the rule for next season. None bigger than keeping both Josh Bell and Colin Moran. We can argue they should trade one or both of these guys and I certainly think they should explore that, but exploring and being virtually forced to are two very different things.

Both of these guys play first base, ok both of them stand on that side of the diamond. Moran plays the spot slightly better, probably not enough to make a call on alone. Moran has been more consistent with the bat but his upside isn’t nearly as high as Josh Bell. It’s as close to an either or as you can get for actual baseball. The control is similar, the play is similar, the numbers are fairly similar. Should the Pirates not find a taker for either that returns whatever the GM has decided fair, it sure would be nice to have that DH spot to land on. Even if it accomplishes nothing more than giving the option of playing a half season to have either play up their value.

If there is not DH, and you can’t get a deal done that you like, do the Pirates need to just suck it up and take less than value? Should they have Moran play another position? I say Moran because I think he probably has more capability than Bell, but not by much. Third base is out most days, I mean there’s this Hayes kid I keep hearing people talk about.

We’ve seen Moran play second base for spot starts but, c’mon, that can’t be a real option if you claim to want to take defense seriously. Regardless of what you think of Polanco’s defense it’s hard to see him being a fit there in right field, just not enough speed.

Yeah, I just can’t really see either of those guys playing anywhere but DH or 1st Base. It’s a real problem and it sure would be great if the Pirates had the benefit of time to figure it out.

It doesn’t just effect these two guys, they could move one of them and work around it but remember when I mentioned the strategy part? The bench is, I won’t go so far as to say more important in the National League, but I’ll at least go so far as to say it requires more specific roles.

Position flexibility is key, and defensive upgrades have a real place as double switches. For instance, having a proven good pinch hitter like Jose Osuna is so much less important if you take away most of his opportunities.

From a roster construction standpoint, this is the biggest rule change up in the air with the possible exception of roster size although I think 26 is extremely likely. That’s what we’re left with, likely, unlikely, probably. Even Rob Manfred himself has essentially ranked them by possibility of sticking.

He put his own concern that universal DH would be eliminating a style of baseball and he wasn’t anxious to do so. The most likely to stick seems to be the extra inning ghost runner which kind of blew my mind. Looks like 7 inning games is going away which is bad news for complete game stats the league over.

We’ll see what happens, I get to say that because I’m not waiting on information in order to make some rather large decisions. I’m sure the GM’s are communicating fears just like this to their owners, but I’m sure they’ve been asking them to step up and try to get them equal economic footing too so who’s to say.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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