From the start of the offseason, some MLB experts have said that the Philadelphia Phillies are a suitor to sign free agent reliever Josh Hader. However, Philadelphia's president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, has not indicated the organization is interested in adding the left-hander to the bullpen.
Should the Phillies consider adding Hader this offseason? Absolutely. The organization should at least think about it. Despite the high price tag, the 29-year-old would give Philadelphia an obvious choice to be their closer.
With Hader on the roster, manager Rob Thomson wouldn't need to take a closer-by-committee approach. The Millersville, Maryland native has finished in the top 10 in saves in each of the last three seasons. José Alvarado would be the Phillies' setup reliever, and Hader would be their closer.
Hader has been in rumors to have interest from other clubs, most recently the Los Angeles Dodgers, but not the Phillies. Yet, the closer is still connected to Philadelphia as a possible suitor. Most recently on Dec. 11 on the MLB Network, Bo Porter and Matt Vasgersian discussed why the organization should sign the reliever.
Porter commented on why Philadelphia should add Hader this offseason: "When you're a team that's knocking on the door for a championship, and you're looking for this one big piece, if I am [the Phillies] I go after Hader full steam. [He's] the best reliever on the market. It locks down your eighth and ninth inning with two arms [Alvarado and Hader] that can get both righties and lefties out, and that may just complete your ball club."
Phillies bullpen hurt them in 2023 postseason
Vasgersian mentioned how the Phillies bullpen struggled at times last postseason. The addition of Hader would strengthen the club at this position. Not having a reliable arm at the back of the bullpen hurt Philadelphia.
Thomson's strategy at times last postseason was puzzling in terms of how he decided to utilize his relievers. He decided not to make Alvarado the closer when he should have done so, instead putting the inconsistent Craig Kimbrel in save situations. The veteran had much more experience in save situations but was unreliable.
The Phillies manager used youngster Orion Kerkering in high-leverage circumstances that may have overwhelmed him. It was evident at times during the Division Series against the Atlanta Braves, and it became more apparent versus the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Championship Series that the club lacked a dependable arm the manager could use in close situations. Hader would be a clear upgrade for Philadelphia as he's in his prime and is more experienced in save opportunities than anybody else the Phillies have.
Phillies content without top-tier closer?
However, to the frustration of Phillies fans who believe the team should sign an elite closer, it appears Philadelphia is content with signing a more affordable reliever not named Hader. If Alvarado is the closer entering next season, who's the setup reliever? Gregory Soto? Matt Strahm? Jeff Hoffman? Kerkering?
By adding the free agent, the guessing games end as to who is the setup and closer. Alvarado is your setup pitcher, and Hader is your closer. There is no debate. To echo Porter's point, the signing makes the Phillies stronger despite the hefty price tag.
Hader will command the largest contract ever for a reliever. Edwin Diaz agreed to a five-year, $102 million contract last offseason. The left-handed phenom will likely surpass that dollar amount with the next club he signs with. Again, the Phillies don't appear interested in offering that sort of deal for a closer, unless Dombrowski is fooling everyone.
It's evident Philadelphia should consider signing Hader, as several writers and members of the media have labeled the closer as a fit for the club. Why do MLB experts continue to feel Hader is a fit for the Phillies? Simply put, because the club has a need at the position.
Despite what appears to be a good fit on paper, Dombrowski and the Phillies seem content with letting the reliever sign elsewhere this winter.