Who Has The Edge?
In looking at recent arbitration history, players currently have the momentum in winning arbitration hearings, with players winning six times to four losses in 2019 and winning 12 times to 10 losses in 2018. In most of the cases involving high profile pitchers such as Trevor Bauer, Gerrit Cole, Ken Giles, and Blake Treinen, the players won.
Josh Hader appears to have the edge over the Brewers if this is to go to a hearing. Both sides can still come to an agreement prior to the hearing, but most teams follow a “file-and-trial” approach to arbitration now, and the Brewers are presumed to be one of those teams, but it’s not known for sure. David Stearns has only gone to one arbitration hearing as Brewers GM and that was with Chase Anderson. The Brewers won that case.
However, with Hader looking to be paid like baseball’s top reliever, he has plenty of statistics to back him up on that, plus the comments from David Stearns to further help his arbitration case.
There’s a big difference between the two sides, with the team filing at $4.1MM and Hader at $6.4MM, it’s going to be tough for the arbitrator to look at everything and think Hader is only worth $4.1MM. If the Brewers were a bit closer, they might have a chance, but it looks to me like this is Hader’s case to lose.
The one thing that could swing this in the Brewers direction is the Knebel argument. If they already know that Hader will be pushed out of the closer’s role upon Knebel’s return and there’s no chance he stays in there, they might be able to convince the arbitrator. But then again, Knebel is coming back from major surgery, has not pitched in a game yet, likely will still miss the first month of the season, and is far from a sure thing. Last time we saw him in 2018, he was a mess for half the season.
Plus, the Brewers have shown to be very open-ended when it comes to their pitching staff and will change up roles quite often, so arguing that they will lock in Knebel as the closer upon his return is a bit far-fetched in reality.
Again, all things considered, it looks like Josh Hader will be getting paid $6.4MM in 2020. He has a very strong case to bring to the arbitration hearing, and the Brewers don’t.
This will be an interesting case to watch, with Hader still allegedly a possible trade candidate, the chance for a settlement, and the arguments both sides will have to make.