Milwaukee Brewers fans had plenty of negative things to say when closer Josh Hader was traded to the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline during the 2022 season. The backlash was largely related to the return, though, not necessarily because of the sheer fact that he was traded.
Most Brewers fans had come to terms with a seemingly inevitable Hader trade for years at that point. With just a year and a half before free agency and set to eventually receive a lucrative contract from some team with much more money than Milwaukee, it only made sense to get something in return for him while there was still time.
After he left, the story played out exactly as expected. Outside of his first few games with the Padres, Hader shined in his new home. He finished just behind current Brewers closer Devin Williams for 2023 NL Reliever of the Year and beat Williams for a spot on the All-MLB first team.
That led to Friday when Hader, finally a free agent, earned that giant contract. It ended up being a five-year, $95MM contract with the Houston Astros, the largest for a reliever in MLB history. Now, after seeing the events of the last couple years, it seems clear that history is set to repeat itself with another Brewers pitcher.
Josh Hader's new contract is likely bad news for current Brewers closer Devin Williams' future in Milwaukee.
Part of the reason that Hader even became expendable as a trade asset is that the Brewers already had his replacement at the closer position in Williams. After exploding on to the scene in 2020 as he won the NL Rookie of the Year award, Williams had been setting up Hader at the back end of the bullpen ever since.
In his first season as the team's closer, Williams was fantastic. He saved a career high 36 games, had a 1.53 ERA and 0.920 WHIP, and earned his second straight NL All-Star selection. He even ended up getting an NL MVP vote.
Now, like Hader was in 2022, Williams is heading into his second to last year of Brewers team control and the comparisons between the two at similar points in their career are not far apart.
Hader through 2021
Williams through 2023
Batting average against
So unless something goes horribly wrong over the next couple years, Williams is set to find himself in the exact same position as Hader in a couple years, that is, earning himself a very nice payday. And since the Brewers haven't magically ballooned their payroll since then, there's a good chance that Williams might not make it further than two more seasons in a Brewers uniform.
Now it may not be because of a deadline trade this time. The Brewers can already keep Williams in Milwaukee for two more years if they want to since the contract the two sides just signed includes a club option for the 2025 season at around what his arbitration value likely would have been for next year anyway.
Whether a trade happens in the next two years or not, it certainly seems like Williams is still on the same overall path as his former teammate. That's good news for his future paycheck, but bad news for his future as a member of the Crew.