With all of the reported rumors circulating around the availability of Milwaukee Brewers’ star closer Josh Hader, for a small-market franchise, it is smart for them to at least look into what type of value the All-Star hurler could get this team.
Money runs all professional sports, and that is very, very true in the sport of baseball, something that small-market franchises, like the Brewers, are forced to deal with. While there are certain measures put into place to try and even the playing field, like the Competitive Balance rounds of the drafts, free agency is an area that there are no elements added to try and make it even across the board.
Hader, who just fell into the Super-Two qualification in terms of playing time for this past season, is in his first season of arbitration eligibility. With an estimated salary of around $5 million, that would be a massive uptick from his $687,600 salary, which is a huge part of why Hader has at least been discussed in trade talks.
On the trend that he is currently on, Josh Hader would easily be earning in excess of $10 million for 2021 and beyond, which, while that is the going market value for a shutdown closer, is not something that the Brewers could easily fit into their budget on a yearly basis.
The New York Yankees have seemingly been the team that has been the most involved in trade discussions with the Brewers, which is not necessarily surprising, given their want to horde the market of the league’s best bullpen talents. Already boasting Adam Ottavino and Aroldis Chapman, as well as Zack Britton, if they were to acquire Hader, then there would be next to no scoring by their opponents once they take their starter out of the game.
An interesting element to this potential trade with the Yankees is that Hader would join both Britton and Chapman as shutdown lefties in the pen, which would limit them in certain ways. However, with the new three-batter minimum rule being implemented, as well as how Britton, Chapman, and Hader are all non-situational hurlers, the bullpen leaning lefty would not be an issue for the Bronx bombers.
If Josh Hader is ultimately dealt at some point the offseason, regardless of to whom, that would not necessarily signal that the Brewers have purposefully closed their window of competition. With how President of Baseball Operations David Stearns has run this team, any sort of a return he would get would most likely help this team not only right away, but also down the road.
Mostly having been on the competitive side of trades in which the Brewers are looking to get better, this deal would represent an interesting balance between making the team better through a return player package, but also in a move that could potentially look like one made by a non-contending team.
Instead of having Hader close games, former closer Corey Knebel, who is on the recovery track from his Tommy John surgery during Spring Training before this season, would be able to slide into the closer’s role for this team in 2020 and beyond. While not expected to be back in full capacity until around the month of May, Knebel has the stuff to be plugged back into the closer’s role, without needing another arm to help him in that role.
With how their roster is built at this moment, especially with Christian Yelich coming back from his season-ending injury, the Brewers are not out of competing at all. Even though they had a ton of roster turnover, with more than half of their 25-man roster being new moving forward into the 2020 season, manager Craig Counsell and Stearns have the pieces in place to remain competitive and make it three consecutive postseason appearances, even if Hader is not on the team anymore.