It doesn’t sound like the Brewers want to sip the Hader-ade anymore.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that Milwaukee could look to move super reliever Josh Hader this offseason to anyone thirsty for bullpen help. It’s a curious thought, considering the Brewers were in it until a wild card game collapse this year.
In any case, Hader is due for raises through the arbitration process over the next four seasons, which means he’ll be fairly inexpensive for a pitcher of his caliber — which means he could be expensive for teams looking to deal for him.
So which teams have the trade capital to pony up and get the relief ace? Here are five squads that could — and should — make a deal for Hader’s services.
New York Mets
The Mets tried to shore up their bullpen last season, which turned out to be the main reason they were playing golf come October. Brodie Van Wagenen signed Jeurys Familia to a three-year, $30 million pact, which blew up in their faces, and then made the splash trade for Edwin Díaz and Robinson Canó, which didn’t exactly work out.
Really, it’s not a surprise that the Mets were one of the teams specifically named by Rosenthal that could make a run for Hader, and other reports have corroborated that. After all, the Mets’ GM sounds like he wants to make a splash, and Hader would provide some insurance in case Diaz is medicore-to-bad again in 2020.
The Mets probably understand that their window is right now; even though their core position player group is young and controllable, the same can’t be said about their starting rotation. While Jacob deGrom is locked up through the 2023 season (he has an option for 2024), Marcus Stroman is a free agent after this season and there’s some doubt surrounding the future of Noah Syndergaard in a Mets uniform, though he has one more year of arbitration left after 2020. Zack Wheeler is a free agent and doesn’t sound like he’ll be returning to New York.
Expecting Díaz to get right could be a dangerous game to play, but making sure there’s an insurance policy for New York in the backend of the bullpen would be wise.
Tampa Bay Rays
No, the Rays don’t particularly need Hader in the bullpen, but for a team that won 96 games last season, took the Astros to a Game 5 in the ALDS and are only going to get better as the years go on, Hader would be a great addition to a team that knows how to maximize its pitching talent.
The 2020 Rays rotation could feature the following: Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Brendan McKay and Yonny Chirinos. Knowing the Rays like to get sweaty and find ways to uproot pitching norms, it would be fun to see how they would employ Hader alongside that rotation, as he would be a weapon no matter where you place him.
Hader would also give the Rays a certainty out of the bullpen, where they’ve had a lot of moving parts over the past few years.
Speaking of teams that know how to maximize pitching talent, the Astros could use someone like Hader in their bullpen. Again, pitching might not be the hole for the Astros — their bullpen performed well through the playoffs last season — but a controllable relief ace like Hader would certainly pair well with Roberto Osuna at the back end of the bullpen, and add some insurance as well.
If the Astros were to trade for Hader, he would give them three relievers in the top 20 in baseball in K rate, along with Josh James and Ryan Pressly. Pressly dealt with injuries the second half of the season, and James was something of a question mark throughout the year, including that playoff run.
If you had to point to one weakness of the AL champs, it’s their bullpen, and Hader would certainly give them a leg up in the Junior Circuit again.
Hey, the defending World Series champs have holes just like everybody else. And as it turns out, they have some in the bullpen.
While the relief corps performed up to snuff in their playoff run, even after the Washington front office rebuilt it in the middle of the year, it was among the worst in baseball. Still, the Nats’ bullpen pitched to a 4.95 xFIP in the second half of 2019, third worst in the majors, and their 240 1/3 innings pitched from relievers was the fifth fewest in that same span.
Luckily for the Nats, the workhorse rotation led by Max Scherzer logged a lot of innings in that second half, so they didn’t exactly have to lean on their bullpen, but they shouldn’t sit idly this offseason and expect that to be the case again in 2020.
Washington does have prospects it can move in the farm system, but some of what they’re willing to give up likely depends on where two of their marquee free agents — third baseman Anthony Rendon and starter Stephen Strasburg — wind up this offseason.
The Braves have spent some money this offseason, which is an encouraging sign that they’re not going to make half-measures in defense of their NL East title this offseason. Hader would fit nicely in a bullpen that was middle of the road when it comes to xFIP, K rate and ERA.
Atlanta did give Will Smith a pretty lucrative contract, but that would be no matter considering Hader’s arbitration situation — even if he is due for a hefty raise. Pairing the lefty with another pretty dominant lefty in the bullpen would create matchup nightmares for opposing offenses and give the Braves a bit more stability in the relief corps than they’ve had in years past.
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