Posted on December 2, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Josh Hader
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When the baseball offseason gets kicked into high gear with next week’s Winter Meetings, one name to watch closely is Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader. The team’s closer has reportedly been made “available” in trade talks. There’s no indication that any trade is in the works and Hader is far from a lock to be traded. However, the Brewers are apparently willing to listen to offers and consider the possibility of trading him. If that comes to fruition, Hader would be the best reliever to change teams this winter, making this a development worth watching.

“We listen on a wide variety of players throughout the offseason,” Brewers GM David Stearns told Ken Rosenthal about Hader’s availability. “A lot of players get discussed.”

On the surface, trading Hader doesn’t seem to make much sense for Milwaukee. The Brewers have been to the postseason in back-to-back years, reaching the NLCS in 2018 and losing to the Nationals in the Wild Card Game this past season. Hader has been an integral part of the team’s success since first coming up in 2017, posting a 2.42 ERA over his first three seasons. Presumably, the Brewers will be looking to compete in 2020, making Hader an important piece of the puzzle.

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On the other side of the coin, Hader is entering his arbitration years and will presumably see his salary sky-rocket between now and when he becomes a free agent after the 2023 season. That could make his contract difficult to afford in the years to come for a team that rarely hands out lucrative contracts. It seems unlikely the Brewers would be able to sign him to a long-term deal if he continues to perform at an elite level. That means the club has to remain open to trading him at some point.

It’s possible that now is the ideal time to trade Hader. His value may never be higher than it is right now. He’s proven to be a high-level closer and figures to have a reasonable salary in the $4-$5 million range in 2020. The Brewers could also be starting to get concerned about how much they’re using him. Hader made 61 appearances this past season and 55 the previous year, totaling 157 innings over that span. That’s a lot of innings for a reliever and the Brewers may want to sell high on Hader before his arm suffers the effects of too much wear and tear.

As mentioned, Hader would immediately become the top reliever on the market if he’s available via trade. Will Smith, the top reliever among free agents, has already signed with the Braves. Any team that’s looking to upgrade the back end of their bullpen would presumably be interested in trading for him. That could create a huge market for Hader and increase Milwaukee’s chances of getting a lot back for him.

The New York Mets have already been mentioned as a possible suitor. The Mets had a disastrous bullpen this past season, getting in the way of a team that otherwise looked capable of reaching the playoffs behind an outstanding rotation. New York was also aggressive in making trades last offseason and has even more pressure to be a playoff contender in 2020. That’s a good indication that the Mets could be willing to pay a high price to land Hader.

Of course, there appears to be no serious trade talks involving Hader at the moment. However, that could change when the entire league convenes in San Diego next week for the Winter Meetings. If the Brewers are serious about making Hader available, there will be no shortage of suitors and he could end up being the most impactful player traded this winter. Nothing is certain at the moment, but it’s certainly a development that’s worth watching.

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