“Mixed Opinions” on Likelihood of Milwaukee Brewers Trading Josh Hader

Aug 24, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader (71) throws a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds during the ninth inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 24, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Josh Hader (71) throws a pitch against the Cincinnati Reds during the ninth inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Trade rumors surrounding the Milwaukee Brewers and Josh Hader are nothing new–in fact, each offseason, it is pretty much expected at this point.

Since the 2018 season, Hader has been one of, if not the most dominant reliever in baseball during that span. He has won the NL Reliever of the Year award on three occasions and posted a 2.30 ERA with 15.9 strikeouts per nine innings over the last four seasons.

This past year, Craig Counsell used Hader more sparingly by limiting him to only one inning each appearance. In total, Hader would pitch in 58.2 innings compared to 75.2 innings in 2019 and 81.1 innings in 2018. The end result was that Hader recorded a career-low ERA of 1.23 and a career-low FIP of 1.69. He was still striking out batters at a high clip (15.6/9) and he gave up the fewest home runs and hits per nine innings of his career.

With Hader either at or very close to his peak dominance, along with still being under team control for two more seasons, his trade value is at an all-time high. Not to mention that his projected arbitration salary of $10 million for 2022 is a bargain compared to what he would get on the open market if he were a free agent.

Will the Milwaukee Brewers trade Josh Hader this offseason?

According to Robert Murray of FanSided, there are “mixed opinions” around baseball when it comes to whether or not the Milwaukee Brewers would trade Hader. As Murray notes, there is “a lot of chatter” around the idea of making a deal, but others believe that the Brewers need to be “blown away” by an offer for a trade to happen.

"“There is once again trade interest in Hader, according to sources familiar with the situation,” wrote Murray. “The Brewers intend to listen to inquiries, as they always do, but are not looking to trade Hader, who is coming off arguably his best season in the majors.”"

All of the reasons that I mentioned above are why the Milwaukee Brewers could look to trade Hader this offseason. Although $10 million may be a team-friendly contract, for the small-market Brewers, that would be one of the bigger contracts on the team, and there are still additions that need to be made to round out this roster. As is often the question, how much money is Milwaukee willing to spend?

On top of that, this is a lineup that is in desperate need of an infusion of some offense. For much of the 2021 season, this is a group of bats that ranked in the bottom-third of many major statistical categories. Trading Hader would be one way to add some pop to this team without spending big money in free agency.

The Brewers also have Devin Williams to lean on as well. While his season ended prematurely, Williams has shown over two seasons now that he can be relied on in high leverage situations and be a dominant relief pitcher. Williams was the NL Rookie of the Year and NL Relief Pitcher of the Year in 2020–and while 2021 got off to a rough start, he would finish with a 2.50 ERA and 14.5 strikeouts per nine over 54.0 innings of work.

However, as Murray mentioned, David Stearns is not going to trade Hader just for the sake of trading Hader. The Brewers want to be “blown away” by an offer, which is certainly understandable–I mean, Hader is the best relief pitcher in baseball.

The issue for the Brewers is that this offseason is likely the last time that they will be able to get a haul in return for Hader. This time a year from now, he will only have one year of team control left, his contract value through arbitration is going to increase, and as a result, Hader is not going to carry the same value on the trade market that he does right now. In 2024, he then becomes a free agent.

The Milwaukee Brewers have shown that as an organization, they are very good at acquiring and developing pitching–but hitting, not so much. Trading away from their strength — pitching — is one way to try to bolster their lineup — we saw this when the Crew acquired Willy Adames — so naturally, Hader’s name is going to pop up in rumors and conversations.

But for the time being, while Stearns is always willing to listen, a trade does not seem imminent based on Murray’s latest report–although we all know how quickly that can change.