Back in August, the Brewers completed one of the worst trades in franchise history, dealing away All-Star closer Josh Hader to the Padres while in first place in the division, for a package of two relievers and two prospects.
The make the trade look worse, the Brewers designated one of the players for assignment just 48 hours later in Dinelson Lamet. It was puzzling considering the role he was expected to fill and the sour taste that was in everyone's mouth after that trade got even more sour.
The Brewers clubhouse was stunned and they weren't able to recover from the trade. Taylor Rogers came over and had problems allowing home runs and blew multiple save opportunities. The two prospects didn't help out at all as Esteury Ruiz was only called upon for three games and Robert Gasser stayed in the minors.
It was a horrible trade that Craig Counsell has even admitted publicly did not work out.
The Brewers maintained all along that this trade was about securing the future and ensuring they would remain competitive for more "bites at the apple" for years to come. In doing so, they lost their bite at the apple in 2022. But this trade was about the prospects more than Rogers or Lamet.
Just the other day, the Brewers traded Estuery Ruiz, one of the prospects in the Hader trade, for three players; relievers Joel Payamps and Justin Yeager as well as All Star catcher William Contreras. As much as the Hader trade was a clear loss for the Brewers, the trade for Contreras was a clear win.
Now the question is: Does trading Esteury Ruiz straight up for William Contreras, Joel Payamps, and Justin Yeager make the Josh Hader trade look a little better for the Brewers?
One of the main arguments against the Hader trade was that the Brewers didn't get any impact players in return. Hader was an impact player. No one they got back was an impact player for the team, which contributed to their demise. Ruiz and Gasser potentially could be impact players someday, but they weren't helping out at the big league level just yet.
Now the Brewers turned one of those players into William Contreras, who is an impact player. He will help this team compete for years to come and solidifies a catching position that hasn't had much certainty on the offensive end in recent years.
Essentially the Brewers traded Josh Hader for Robert Gasser, William Contreras, and a couple more relievers. That's a much better looking trade than what the Brewers had before.
However, this still doesn't excuse the baffling decision to DFA Dinelson Lamet and not get any help for the 2022 roster. Rogers was a placeholder that they knew was nowhere near as good as Hader and both pitchers had their struggles for their new teams. Hader found it again in September and October, while Rogers never did. Of the four players the Brewers traded a franchise cornerstone for, just one remains in the organization only four months later.
As a stand-alone trade, moving Esteury Ruiz for Contreras and two arms is an outstanding move. There is no doubt about that.
When it comes to what this trade does for the legacy of the Josh Hader trade, it's tantamount to putting lipstick on a pig.
Trading an All-Star closer while in first place in the division, getting nothing back to help your big league club, DFAing one of the four pieces just hours later, destroying the clubhouse's trust, and missing the playoffs makes the Hader trade an all-time bad deal. What it did to the team, what it did to the fanbase, means it will never truly become a winning trade for the Brewers.
Being able to turn one of those four pieces by himself into three more players, including an All Star catcher under team control for five more seasons is an outstanding positive move. It helped the fanbase regain some trust and likely helped the clubhouse regain some trust and belief that this front office is trying to help them win a World Series. It's still nothing more than lipstick on a pig to the Hader trade.
The scars are still there. The pain may have left, and this trade may put some makeup on to cover up the scar, but the scar is still there. The pig that is the Josh Hader trade may have lipstick, but it's still a pig.