The Brewers are looking for offensive upgrades this winter, and they have at least one significant bargaining chip. Milwaukee is open to offers for elite reliever Josh Hader, per Robert Murray of Fangraphs.
As central as Hader has been to this run of Brewers contention – and as unique a talent as he has been – the Brewers have to at least listen to offers. He’s projected to make $5.65MM this season, and he has another two seasons of control remaining. Now might be the peak of Hader’s trade value.
For the Brewers, he might be a luxury they can no longer afford. Even at his most dominant, Hader maxed out at 2.7 bWAR during the regular season. There’s additional value for Hader’s role in the postseason, however, evidenced by his dominant run of 10 scoreless innings in the 2018 playoffs that played a major role in getting the Brewers to the NLCS. For an NL contender looking to balance to scales against the juggernaut Dodgers, a weapon like Hader could present a solution.
Besides, it just so happens that the Brewers produced another high-end reliever in Rookie-of-the-Year Devin Williams. As tantalizing as the pair would be at the tail-end of games, the Brewers have other holes to fill and a limited payroll. They had a roughly $97MM payroll in 2020, and they’re already close to that number with arbitration projections for 2021. They could non-tender Corey Knebel to open up about $5MM, but he’s also a high-end bullpen piece at his best – which he wasn’t in 2020 with a 6.08 ERA in 13 1/3 innings.
If they’re serious about upgrading the offense, which Murray notes finished 26th in runs and 24th in OPS, moving a piece like Hader might provide a path. Naysayers may point to the mph he lost on his fastball this season, but he was still among the very best in the game at limiting hard contact (85.4 mph EV), avoiding barrels (14.7 Barrel%), and striking out opposing hitters (39.7 K%) – not to mention a 2.94 xERA that ranks among the top 10% in the game.