With the 2020 (virtual) Winter Meetings less than a month away, the trade rumor mill is ready to begin in earnest. No trade rumor period would be adequate without scuttlebutt about Josh Hader. Robert Murray delivers at Fansided, giving us our first taste of “Hader to someplace else mania” this trading period.
According to Murray, David Stearns and Company “intend to listen” on Hader. The 27 year old reliever is projected to get something like $5.1M and $5.65M in arbitration in 2021. He is also controllable for the next three years. Unfortunately, Hader’s price tag may be reaching a point that Stearns is uncomfortable with, and he might view it as the right time to reap a nice return for one of baseball’s best relievers.
Hader showed some flaws in 2020 that other teams will point to in an attempt to bring down the Brewers’ asking price. The biggest issue is the velocity drop on his fastball. He dropped almost 1 mph from 2019 to 2020. That said, Hader’s 2020 average fastball velocity is very close to what it was in 2018, which is in the neighborhood of the 73rd and 75th percentiles respectively in baseball. 2019 might have been the anomaly. Plus, we know that he was throwing the fastball at a higher rate in 2019 than any other time in his career.
Hader did see his K/9 drop from 16.41 in 2019 to 14.68 in 2020. His BB/9 also was the highest of his career at 4.74 in 2020 as opposed to his career best in 2019 of 2.38. Still he posted dominant numbers in 2020. In just two of his 21 outings did he give up much at all. In fact, of the 8 runs he gave up all season, 6 came in those two outings: one against the Cubs and one against the Pirates. One could argue that across an entire season, he would have pitched to career norms, much like he did in 2019. Also let us not forget how everyone was talking about how Hader was not scored upon for a substantial amount of time in 2020.
Murray suggests that the market for Hader could be depressed because of the economic uncertainty that could pervade teams across MLB. Uncertainty is the keyword. With Drew Smyly signing a 1-year/$11M contract, some of those concerns MIGHT be exaggerated.
Plus there are relievers to be had in free agency. Liam Hendriks and Brad Hand top the list. Predictions suggest both can be had for a reasonable amount and without having to cough up anything in trade. Arguably that could depress Hader’s value too. Yet both relievers are older than Hader, and he is more likely to be cheaper than those two in 2021.
Plus teams looking to contend are always in the market for bullpen help. I would be surprised if the teams that were interested at the trade deadline were not still interested: Yankees, Dodgers, Padres, and Mets. I would also imagine teams like the Twins, White Sox, Red Sox, and Rays would have interest as well. $5-$6M for 2021 is not a lot in baseball terms to pay for a reliever of Hader’s ilk. Maybe the Brewers should keep him.
Baseball statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Savant