Brewers: The Good, Bad, And Ugly Of A Potential Josh Hader Trade

Sep 5, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader (71) reacts in the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 5, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader (71) reacts in the ninth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

The Brewers trading Josh Hader is still a possibility. What could the impact be?

Even after Corey Knebel was traded to the Dodgers to avoid a non-tender, the Brewers might still trade from their bullpen depth. Josh Hader is the biggest potential trade chip David Stearns has to offer this winter and if the right deal comes along, he’ll make the move.

Alongside an Alex Claudio non-tender, if Hader gets traded, that means three members of the Crew’s 2020 bullpen wouldn’t be back in 2021, including two lefties.

That being said, there are both positives and drawbacks to a potential Hader trade, should it happen this offseason. Let’s go over the good, bad, and ugly aspects of what a trade like this would mean for the Brewers

The Good

By trading Hader, the Brewers would likely be able to bring back another impact player to their roster, whether that be a first baseman, third baseman, or a pitcher. They also would be able to add some minor league prospects to help beef up the farm system, depending on how big the headliner of the return is.

If it’s a trade to the Dodgers that involves Gavin Lux, then there may not be as many prospects or as high quality of prospects coming back to fill out the package, but then the Brewers would have Lux. That’s just one possible example and doesn’t mean the Dodgers actually would part with Lux.

On top of all the talent a Hader trade would bring back to Milwaukee, this would also clear some salary on the books. Hader is projected to earn between $5-6MM next season, and his price would only continue to go up his following years of arbitration. By clearing that extra money in a year where the Brewers budget will be tight, that gives Stearns some additional wiggle room to go after other targets and improve the roster in other ways and afford a better free agent target.

The Bad

What is this going to mean for the Brewers bullpen in 2021? After already trading away Knebel, Hader is actually one of the most experienced members of that bullpen. He has the second-most MLB service time of the group, behind only Brent Suter.

Both Hader and Knebel were late-inning options. Losing two players who have the most experience in the big leagues and who could close games in one offseason is a tough blow to take.

Devin Williams pitched extremely well in 2020 and would likely be the top option to be the closer if Hader departs. He only has one season, and it was a shortened season, of experience at the big league level in those situations.

Guys like Justin Topa, Drew Rasmussen, and Eric Yardley would become the other primary relief options. They have the potential to fill those roles well, but they’re also short on experience and track record.

A trade of Hader, if it doesn’t also bring back a bullpen option in return, would leave the Brewers extremely short on experience in late-game situations out there and could leave the bullpen as a question mark heading into the season after being a strength in 2020.

The Ugly

Josh Hader is a unique, generational talent at his position. You just don’t see guys like this come along very often. He’s a two-time NL Reliever of the Year, can cover multiple innings, and has electric stuff.

How ugly would it be for the Brewers to be forced to trade him away because his salary got up to the $5-6MM range?

The whole concept of Hader being a trade candidate is based on the idea that he’s going to earn too much money for the Brewers to be comfortable paying and they should trade him because they can’t afford him.

Hader’s rising salary is a factor in these trade talks, whether Stearns is willing to admit it or not. He’s going to search for the best possible return and make sure that a team would have to overpay to get him, so that way it doesn’t appear to just be a sell-off for the sake of saving money. That way, the trade can be made because it makes good baseball sense to do it.

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It’s hardly a guarantee that Hader will get traded this offseason. But his value is as high as it might ever be and with the Brewers likely needing to squeeze payroll after the losses suffered in the 2020 season, a move of Hader makes some sense. Whether or not it happens depends on if another team is willing to pay the price.