'Why wouldn't you join the Dodgers?' Hader's market still in flux

January 10th, 2024

The free-agent starting pitching market still features some notable names, including Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery.

Might Josh Hader have to wait until those starters sign before finding a deal of his own?

According to sources, some teams that are considering Hader – namely the Yankees and Rangers – are prioritizing rotation help, viewing the All-Star reliever as a fallback plan if they’re unable to land an impact starter.

“If these teams can’t sign a Snell or Montgomery, they may pivot to Hader and build up the back end of the game,” a source said. “He may have to wait a little while.”

Hader is the best relief pitcher on the market and arguably the best in the game, a five-time All-Star and three-time winner of the Trevor Hoffman Award, presented annually to the National League’s top reliever. He bounced back from a rocky 2022, posting stellar numbers – a 1.28 ERA, 33 saves and 85 strikeouts in 56 1/3 innings – during his first full season with the Padres.

The Yankees’ interest in Snell and Montgomery has been well-documented, but if they come up short on the two lefty starters, adding Hader to a bullpen that led the American League in ERA last season could be a way to take some pressure off the rotation.

The Rangers aren’t in the market for Snell, but the defending World Series champs would like to bring back Montgomery, who played a key role in the club’s title run. Even if the Rangers re-sign Montgomery, adding Hader remains a possibility, as the back end of the bullpen was an issue for most of 2023. Despite a successful October run, Texas’ relief corps is losing free agents Will Smith and Aroldis Chapman, making the need for an arm such as Hader more pressing.

The Phillies and Cubs are also potential suitors for Hader, though neither has shown the inclination to pay his asking price. Chicago’s new manager, Craig Counsell, did manage Hader in Milwaukee for the first five-plus years of the pitcher’s career, so there would be a comfort factor in play if Hader were to sign with the Cubs.

The wild card in the Hader sweepstakes is the Dodgers, who have already added Shohei Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow and Teoscar Hernández this offseason. Los Angeles has a strong 1-2 bullpen punch with Evan Phillips and Brusdar Graterol, but adding Hader would simply make the Dodgers’ relief corps even better. Given the club’s aggressive approach this winter, why not add the best closer in the game to the offseason haul?

Unsurprisingly, the biggest factor in Hader’s final destination will likely be money, as the 29-year-old is seeking a deal worth more than the record five-year, $102 million contract Edwin Díaz signed with the Mets in November 2022. If a club is willing to give Hader the nine-figure deal he’s looking for, that would likely be enough to secure his services. But what if that type of deal doesn’t present itself?

“If you’re Hader and the record-breaking deal isn’t there for you, why wouldn’t you join the Dodgers?” one executive said. “Is there a better situation for any player right now? He would be a luxury, but they’re clearly all in.”