2013 could be the year of the slugger

Aging hitters, like Hideki Matsui, could come back to life and thrive when baseball realigns in 2013. (Shaun Best/Reuters)

The Houston Astros switch from the National to the American League in 2013 presents a huge opportunity to baseball’s older generation of sluggers. Though the exact schedule is not certain, having an odd number of teams in both the AL and NL will lead to an increase of interleague games in the 2013 season. Does this mean that the Oakland Athletics will bring Mark McGwire out of retirement? Maybe, if it somehow helps their move to San Jose. Does this mean that National League clubs with anemic offenses, like the San Diego Padres will be more tempted to hire an older power player, who has lost his speed but still has their home run ability? Absolutely.

Whether these interleague games will all feature a designated hitter or will continue in the current format, is another issue which has not been settled. (There is no indication that American League clubs would allow their pitchers to bat at all times in this situation.) However, the increased frequency of games between the two leagues coupled with a minimum of half of the games being played in AL format, means that former All-Stars, who are still without a home, like Hideki Matsui, will have plenty of suitors in the NL.

Matsui and other power hitters like him still have to find teams for next season if they want to cash in on the year of the slugger in 2013. With rare exceptions, when a hitter in his mid-30s is unemployed for a season, teams lose interest. The current crop of sluggers will need to become the pinch-hitters and utility men of the NL to last that one more season. And this gives NL clubs with foresight the ability to sign these home-run hitters for two- to three-year club-friendly contracts. At least for this baseball season, the positions will be reversed; the batters will be the ones pushing for the one-year deals.

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