This past Friday, Josh Hader agreed to a huge five-year, $95 million contract with the Houston Astros. The deal made Hader’s contract the largest ever for a reliever in terms of present-day value, as Edwin Diaz had signed a $102 million contract last offseason with the New York Mets with $26.5 million deferred, making his deal around $93 million in present-day value.
Despite no official word that they were in on him, Hader was one of the offseason free agent targets deemed a great fit for the Philadelphia Phillies to help elevate them into strong contender status. But after seeing the amount Hader signed for, did the Phillies dodge a bullet instead?
There is no question that with an elite, overpowering closer like Hader, few can match his caliber in the league today. After all, for someone who has posted a strong 2.50 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, with a whopping 648 strikeouts in just 388 2/3 innings in his seven-year MLB career and heading into his prime, he should be worth every single penny, shouldn’t he?
Hader is really good, but would he have been the right move for the Phillies?
Well, there are a few things to ponder to determine if he is actually worth it. First of all, it was just only two years ago when he posted his worst-ever season in the MLB, compiling a horrific 5.22 ERA and 1.28 WHIP, along with five losses and four blown saves. It may be the only ugly outlier in his stellar career thus far, but it shows that he is not totally invincible like the pure dominance shown by previous elite closers in history, such as Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Rollie Fingers.
Hader’s contract with the Astros consists of no opt-outs or club options and a full no-trade clause. So basically, the team is at the mercy of Hader’s performance, and they better hope he performs up to expectations with no way of getting out of it if he fails.
In addition, Hader has shown in the past that he pitches only a maximum of one inning and pitches only in the final inning of a ballgame. Unlike some other closers in the league willing to be brought into game action whenever they're needed most or even pitch more than an inning to finish off a ballgame, you will never see that happen for Hader, almost ever. Without that added flexibility and adaptability, it certainly makes one wonder if he is really worth that much money for a set role reliever.
With the Phillies already having the likes of José Alvarado, Seranthony Domínguez, Gregory Soto, and even rookie prospect Orion Kerkering in the mix for the potential closer role for 2024, they really didn’t need to take that chance on such a massive contract with Hader. Instead, they can save that money to address multiple needs, like a flex outfielder, another bullpen arm, or an additional rotation piece to help complete the roster.
The Phillies already have the fourth-highest 2024 payroll at over $237 million, per Spotrac. In this case, Phillies fans can breathe a sigh of relief that the front office didn’t pour all their resources into one huge, risky investment.