Universal truth? Execs talk NL DH possibility

Universal truth? Execs talk NL DH possibility

Baseball's most divisive debate returned to the forefront of the national conversation on Saturday, with questions arising as to whether the National League is looking to implement the designated hitter at some point in the near future.

At the Cardinals' Winter Warm-Up event, general manager John Mozeliak was asked if he senses momentum shifting toward a universal DH.

"I get that question every year here, and I do feel like there were times I could look all of you in the face and say, 'That's a non-starter; it's not being discussed at owner level or GM.' But over the last year, it has.

"I'm not suggesting or saying you're going to see a change. But I definitely think the momentum of having down offense at the Major League level is something that people are starting to consider -- if [a universal DH] might help. And also perhaps looking at injury risk."

The injury factor is particularly relevant with Mozeliak, given that his club lost ace Adam Wainwright for most of the 2015 season to a torn achillies that he suffered while batting.

Nationals ace Max Scherzer also went down to an injury at the plate this season, prompting many to call for a universal DH, which would theoretically reduce the chances for pitchers to get hurt.

Mozeliak -- who supports the current NL rules but called himself "open-minded" regarding a possible change -- pointed out that the injury angle often gets taken out of proportion.

"Somebody like Adam could have been hurt coming off the mound, coming out of the batters' box, slipping out of a shower," Mozeliak said. "But net-net, you certainly don't want to see players hurt."

Of course, injuries are only one factor in the great DH debate. Proponents of the NL's current system tout the strategy of the game, and the need for a ballplayer to be able to perform in all facets.

On the other side of the argument, the presence of a designated hitter gives teams a chance to insert more offense into the lineup -- which is precisely the conundrum in Chicago. The Cubs' roster is loaded with young talent, so much so that president Theo Epstein noted the impact a DH would have for an offensive-minded player like Kyle Schwarber.

"We have so many good hitters coming that we wouldn't mind the DH," said Epstein, who followed by adding that he didn't think the NL would ever adopt the rule.

The DH rule has existed in the American League since 1973. With 2013's introduction of year-round Interleague Play, questions have arisen as to whether the two leagues should make an attempt to standardize the DH.

The removal of the DH from the AL would appear to be out of the question. It's hard to imagine the Major League Baseball Players Association voting to remove 15 well-paying jobs.

But could MLB be looking to add a DH to the NL in the near future -- possibly as early as next offseason, when the Collective Bargaining Agreement runs out?

"That would seem, to me, a little fast," Mozeliak said. "But I'm not all that close to the CBA negotiations right now, at a personal level."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.