Albert Pujols signed with the Angels and can play 1B or DH
The designated hitter in the American League has prolonged the careers of several sluggers over the years. Albert Pujols recently signed a 10-year contract with the Angels and will play first base and DH.
The deal makes much more sense for an American League team that can use Pujols as a DH when his age and athleticism decline. Pujols will be 41 years old, if he plays for the life of the contract. As he gets older, we can expect to see more instances of him being a DH rather than playing in the field.
It is my personal belief that there should be one set of rules for all of Major League Baseball. The strategy of baseball is greatly diminished with the DH. Its time has passed, and as a baseball purist, I feel that the DH minimizes the strategic decisions a manager must make over the course of a ball game.
Having two sets of rules makes no sense, but since baseball does not seem ready to make any changes, we are probably stuck with it for awhile.
Let's take a look at some of the National League sluggers that would make good DH's. In order to be considered, a player must be an average or below-average defensive player.
Michael Morse has emerged as a feared slugger in the NL
Michael Morse has played both first base and outfield for the Washington Nationals. He is a bit big and awkward in the field, but he is very dangerous as a hitter.
At 6'5" and 230 pounds, Morse is a big, strong guy with plenty of power. In 2011, Morse hit .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBI.
Morse is also just an average defensive player, at best. He would be an ideal AL DH.
Carlos Beltran recently signed with the St. Louis Cardinals
Beltran, who will be 35 years old early in the 2012 season, has battled several injury issues over the last few years. Most significant are balky knees that have caused him to miss games and also slowed him defensively.
Last year, Beltran hit .300 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI, in 520 AB's. His OBP of .385 and OPS of .910 prove that he is still a very dangerous hitter.
Beltran has slowed defensively, however. The three-time Gold Glove award winner had a lot of trouble getting to balls that many other outfielders would have caught. He was just an average outfielder in 2011, and he isn't getting any younger.
Beltran has a two-year contract with the Cardinals and will be best suited as a DH in the American League following that.
The Astros will be moving to the AL in 2013
Carlos Lee would be an ideal DH in the American League. Interestingly, the Houston Astros will move to the AL in 2013, and it will be interesting to see if they're able to sign him, as his contract expires after 2012.
Lee batted .275 with 18 home runs and 94 RBI. His home run totals have actually declined every year since 2007. Defensively, Lee split time playing both the outfield and first base. He is a defensive liability at both positions, so DH would keep his potent bat in the lineup without hurting the Astros defensively.
Playing as a DH would also keep Lee a lot fresher, and that would help his bat speed. We'll see if the Astros can keep him around when they become an American League team.
Ryan Howard is a feared slugger for the Phillies
Ryan Howard is one of the top sluggers in the National League. In 2011, Howard hit .253 with 33 home runs and 116 RBI.
Howard suffered a torn Achilles in the final at-bat of the 2011 NLCS. He underwent surgery and has been working hard to rehabilitate himself. It's likely that Howard will be out until sometime in May, although he holds out hope that he can return in time for the season opener.
Howard is an adequate defensive player but definitely not in the Gold Glove category. At age 32 and trying to return from a serious injury, Howard would be a very good fit as a DH.
Prince Fielder is on the free agent market
Prince Fielder has not attracted the same level of interest that Albert Pujols or Jose Reyes did in their quest for free-agent megabucks. It now looks like the Washington Nationals have the inside track on landing this prestigious slugger.
Fielder, who is still only 27 years old, had another big year in 2011. He hit .299 with 38 home runs and 120 RBI. His OBP was .415, and OPS of .981 was outstanding.
Weight has always been the biggest concern with Fielder. He is listed at 275 pounds but looks a lot bigger than that. It is this concern that has many teams backing off offering Fielder a long-term contract for the huge money he desires.
Fielder is not a strong defensive player, so the DH spot would be an ideal fit for him. I am surprised that an American League team has not already signed him.
World Series MVP David Freese
The St. Louis Cardinals are basking in the glow of their 2011 World Series title and rightfully so. The loss of superstar Albert Pujols is a big one, and manager Tony La Russa has also retired.
There are still several good players available on the free-agent market, so we should continue to see a lot of activity in the coming weeks.
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training next month, and the annual ritual that is baseball begins anew. Like an old friend returning from a long trip, we will welcome baseball back with open arms. I can hardly wait.