It goes a bit too far to say the Brewers have been competitive the last few years entirely because of Christian Yelich and Josh Hader, but it doesn’t go too far to say that no competitive team in baseball has been more reliant on just two disproportionately absurd players (relative to the rest of their roster).
But when Hader qualified for Super Two status last year, starting his four arbitration years, the clock was ticking on the day the Brewers would trade him. It was simply a matter of the finances of the thing, and also trying to sell high on a relief arm. Thus, the rumors were out there last year, but no deal was consummated, and now the Brewers are going back to the well.
Here’s the report from Robert Murray, and I’ll just offer my opinion that this is coming straight from the Brewers:
The Brewers “intend to listen” to offers for All-Star reliever Josh Hader, according to sources.
Naturally, the Brewers will want a lucrative return for a player they consider the best left-handed reliever in baseball. Hader, 27, ranks in the top two percent in baseball in strikeout rate (39.7 percent) in the top four percent in hard hit rate (26.5 percent). While his fastball velocity has dropped (95.5 mph in 2019; 94.5 mph in 2020), he was dominant for most of the season except for two outings against the Cubs and Pirates that accounted for six of his eight runs allowed.
It makes sense for the Brewers to consider moving Hader. He is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $5.1 million in arbitration and that number will continue to rise until he’s a free agent in 2024. Trading Hader now would maximize his value and allow the Brewers to use the extra money to upgrade their lineup.
The Yankees, Dodgers, Padres and Mets are among the teams to show previous interest in Hader, sources said.
The Brewers would love to trade Hader now. I have zero doubt. They want to be able to repurpose the funds and they want to get value before Hader turns into a pumpkin (not a guarantee, but his complicated, max-effort delivery – and almost entire reliance on a fastball that performs above its weight class because of perfect spin and that delivery – just feels like a bad long-term bet to me).
But now they’ve got the pandemic finances to deal with, plus the worrying signals from Hader’s 2020 season. While Murray’s piece highlights the good stuff, you can’t just ignore that Hader has seen his ERA rise every year in the big leagues, just posted the worst FIP of his career (only 10% better than league average), saw a big dip in his strikeout rate and big rise in his walk rate, and saw a sizeable drop in his fastball and slider velocity. Maybe you chalk much of that up to the short and weird season? Maybe. But if you’re buying three pricey arbitration years for a reliever, how much are you sending out in the deal when risks have started to pop up?
My guess is that Hader is still going to be very, very good when he’s healthy. But my guess is also that he’s already produced, by far, the most “value” in his career (i.e., the combination of performance and cost). A trade is going to leave the recipient with something far less than Hader has been for the Brewers thus far in his career.
So, again I say: of course the Brewers want to trade him.