Milwaukee Brewers: Should they trade Josh Hader this winter?

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 24: Josh Hader #71 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on September 24, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Milwaukee defeated Cincinnati 4-2. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 24: Josh Hader #71 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on September 24, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Milwaukee defeated Cincinnati 4-2. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

With their options to improve the roster through the trade market being limited because of a weak farm system, the Milwaukee Brewers should entertain making Josh Hader available this winter if they want to make a substantial move via trade.

It’s a pivotal offseason for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Though they’re coming off of a two year run where they just made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since the early 1980’s, they face the prospect of falling behind their fellow rivals this off-season if they don’t take major steps to improve their roster.

With legitimate holes to address at shortstop, first base, third base, catcher, and in their pitching staff, they’ll have to navigate this winter carefully and prudently if they want to be a contender for a World Series next season.

One thing the Brewers have going for them is that they have significant money to work with in free agency. Given that there are several high quality players available on the market, especially at the positions they are currently the weakest at, they’d be wise to use their money on bolstering the roster this way.

However, when it comes to the other major way that they can try to improve their roster, which is through the trade market, their options are much more limited. Unless they’re willing to make someone like Josh Hader available via trade, they’ll likely find themselves locked out of that market for the best available players.

Milwaukee has one of the worst farm systems in baseball at the moment. That means the team will not be able to rely solely on trading prospects to get an impact talent via trade.

Who Could They Trade Hader For?

Then, out of the players currently on the Major League roster, there are only a few that would get them in the conversation for a top talent like Corey Seager or Francisco Lindor. Josh Hader makes the most the sense to trade out of that group.

Let’s make a case for why trading Josh Hader now may be a smart move for the club.

Why Trade Hader Now?

First, if the team made Hader available, he’d be a highly coveted talent. Hader has won the NL Reliever of the season award in back-to-back seasons. He finished each of the past two seasons in third place in fWAR among relievers (2.3 fWAR in 2019, 2.6 in 2018), and has also finished in the top three in K/9 (2nd in 2018 at 15.82, first in 2019 at 16.41).

His ability to go multiple innings in relief several times a week makes him the ideal relief pitcher in the modern game. Whether it’s using him to bridge the gap to a closer, like he was doing for most of 2018, or using him for one to two innings to close out games, he can relieve the stress put on the rest of a pen and shut down games in nearly every outing in which he is called upon. That should make him one of, if not, the most sought after reliever in baseball right now.

Because of his success, however, his pay is about go up significantly in arbitration. That means the gap between the value that he provides (which is elite), and the cost of his contract, won’t be as big as it’s been in each of the past three seasons.

Given that the Brewers are likely going to have to spend a lot on payroll this season to seriously contend, Hader’s bump in pay could make it harder for the team to invest elsewhere in free agency. That may create an incentive for Milwaukee to shop him to see what they can land in return.

A third incentive for Milwaukee to consider moving him now is that relievers are a bit more volatile than players at other positions, and his profile does present some red flags. He is extremely dependent on his fastball, and as we saw this past season, he can be prone to home run issues when he’s struggling to locate that pitch and keep hitters honest with his slider. Unless he can improve his command a bit, he will continue to have some bad stretches where he gives up a lot of home runs.

One final incentive for the Brewers to shop him now is that he’s likely the most expendable player of out of their core. They aren’t trading Christian Yelich this offseason given that he’s one of the best players in baseball. There’s virtually no trade out there that would get the team fair value in return for him.

Trading Keston Hiura makes little sense either. His ceiling is incredibly high, and he won’t be arbitration eligible for a while. Even though he has defensive limitations, his bat alone could make him a potential 3-5 WAR player on an annual basis.

The only other player out of their core who COULD get them a massive return is Brandon Woodruff. However, like Hiura, Woodruff’s cost, potential, and years of control make him an ideal player to build a team around.

With Corey Knebel returning from injury next season, and David Stearns having loaded up on high-upside arms in the pen over the past several years, Milwaukee may be able to afford taking a risk on moving Josh Hader. The Brewers could assemble a more than serviceable pen in his place if they moved him, though it would not necessarily be a guarantee.

Moving Hader alone won’t get the Brewers someone like Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, or Mookie Betts, all of who could move this winter and would be incredible additions to their team. However, he could be used as a headliner to get them into the conversation for those guys. That could be a powerful incentive for the team to consider moving him this off-season.

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Given his value, the Brewers should seriously consider exploring the trade market for Josh Hader this winter. He is the ideal piece for them to offer in a trade to give themselves a chance to land an impact talent elsewhere.