DH Jobs Becoming Scarce

The signing of Nick Johnson by the Yankees is a good move for New York, for all the reasons Jack talked about this morning. But, for players like Russ Branyan, Jim Thome, and Vladimir Guerrero, it is bad news indeed.

As Brian Cashman noted earlier in the off-season, he ran into a designated hitter looking for a job no matter where he turned. The market is saturated with good hitters who can’t play the field, and unfortunately for them, the National League doesn’t use a DH. So, their options are limited to AL teams who don’t already have a designated hitter in the fold.

The Yankees were a potential landing spot for DH types, especially left-handed ones looking to exploit the right field wall in New Yankee Stadium. However, New York signed a first baseman to take that spot, decreasing the supply of available jobs for defensively challenged players without taking any DH types off the market.

Johnson’s signing, along with Matsui’s deal in LA, also sets something of a price ceiling for guys with limited defensive value. That Johnson and Matsui were not able to get more than $6 million as the best of the bunch in this player type limits the bargaining power that the lesser players have. Not only are the jobs diminishing quickly, but they’re going to have to take $2 to $4 million in order to land one.

There aren’t many DH jobs left available. If I was the agent for any of the aging sluggers with no defensive value, I’d be trying everything I could to land a job in Baltimore or Texas as quickly as possible. This game of musical chairs is going to leave several good hitters standing around, trying to figure out what they’re going to do with their lives after baseball.

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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.