Top Landing Spots and Trade Packages for Brewers RP Josh Hader Amid Rumors
What are three years of arguably the most dominant left-handed reliever in baseball history worth in today's market?
We may soon know the answer to that question.
According to Robert Murray of FanSided, the Milwaukee Brewers "intend to listen" to offers for two-time All-Star Josh Hader this offseason, and there should be no shortage of interest.
The 26-year-old has struck out a staggering 44.1 percent of the batters he has faced over the course of his four-year career, posting a 2.54 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 15.3 K/9 while limiting opposing hitters to a .144 batting average.
He is projected to earn $5.1 million in his second year of arbitration, making him a far more cost-effective option than the market's top free agents.
To put that number into perspective, MLB Trade Rumors is projecting a three-year, $30 million deal for Liam Hendriks and matching two-year, $14 million contracts for Brad Hand, Trevor Rosenthal, Trevor May and Blake Treinen.
All 30 teams would benefit from adding Hader to their relief corps, but the list of teams where he makes sense as a trade target is decidedly shorter. Ahead, we've highlighted six potential suitors and put together a trade package for each.
Let's start by breaking down why the other 23 teams were not included.
Why Other Teams Were Not Included
Here's a quick-hit rundown of why the teams not included as potential landing spots were removed from the conversation:
- ARI: Rebuilding, non-contender
- BAL: Rebuilding, non-contender
- BOS: Retooling, unlikely to trade young talent
- CHC: Unlikely to trade with division rival
- CWS: Unlikely to include Andrew Vaughn, thin farm system behind him
- CIN: Unlikely to trade with division rival
- CLE: Cutting costs
- COL: Thin farm system
- DET: Rebuilding, non-contender
- HOU: Thin farm system
- KC: Rebuilding, non-contender
- LAA: More pressing needs
- MIA: Rebuilding, fringe contender
- MIN: Small-market team, unlikely to move controllable talent
- NYY: More pressing needs
- OAK: Small-market team, unlikely to move controllable talent
- PIT: Rebuilding, non-contender
- SF: Rebuilding, fringe contender
- SEA: Rebuilding, non-contender
- STL: Unlikely to trade with division rival
- TB: Small market team, unlikely to move controllable talent
- TEX: Cutting costs
- WAS: Thin farm system
With Mark Melancon (23 G, 11 SV, 2.78 ERA), Shane Greene (28 G, 2.60 ERA) and Darren O'Day (19 G, 1.10 ERA) all headed for free agency, the Atlanta Braves have some holes to fill in a bullpen that ranked fourth in the majors with a 3.50 ERA in 2020.
They handed Will Smith a three-year, $40 million contract last offseason, and they also have Chris Martin, A.J. Minter, Jacob Webb and Tyler Matzek returning, but they could use another quality late-inning arm to anchor a young pitching staff.
The Return Package
- OF Drew Waters (No. 21 in B/R Top 100)
- C William Contreras (Next 50 in B/R Top 100)
- RHP Victor Vodnik
- IF Johan Camargo
If the Atlanta front office decides to prioritize re-signing Marcell Ozuna, it would make trading Drew Waters easier to swallow. Slotting Ozuna in left field and Ronald Acuna Jr. at one of the other starting outfield spots would still leave Adam Duvall, Cristian Pache and Ender Inciarte in the mix for playing time in the outfield.
The 21-year-old Waters hit .309/.360/.459 with 56 extra-base hits and 16 steals between Double-A and Triple-A in 2019, and he would likely be manning center field if he weren't playing alongside Pache.
He would immediately jump to the No. 1 spot on the Milwaukee prospect list and give the organization a clear long-term replacement for Lorenzo Cain.
Similarly, William Contreras would plug in immediately as the starting catcher, opening the door to non-tender the disappointing Omar Narvaez, who is projected to earn $2.9 million in arbitration.
Victor Vodnik is one of the most intriguing second-tier arms in the Atlanta system. He pitched primarily in relief in 2019 but recorded more than three outs in each of his 23 appearances. His future role is unclear, but his mix of deception and stuff gives him a high floor.
The Brewers have a hole to fill at third base, and Johan Camargo would give them a stopgap solution and a useful utility piece if an alternative option arises.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers had the NL's best bullpen in 2020, leading the league with a 2.74 ERA, but they are facing a good amount of turnover this winter. Closer Kenley Jansen seemingly lost his hold on the closer's role in October, while key setup arms Blake Treinen (27 G, 3.86 ERA), Jake McGee (24 G, 2.66 ERA) and Pedro Baez (18 G, 3.18 ERA) are all free agents.
Even if he returns to form, Jansen is only signed for one more year—albeit at the exorbitant rate of $20.8 million—so Hader would provide a long-term replacement in the ninth inning.
The Return Package
- C Keibert Ruiz (No. 61 in B/R Top 100)
- 3B Edwin Rios
- OF DJ Peters
- RHP Andre Jackson
The Brewers have lacked stability at the catcher position since Jonathan Lucroy was traded to the Texas Rangers, and prospect Mario Feliciano is still just 21 years old with only three games played above the High-A level.
Keibert Ruiz would instantly solve that problem, and the Dodgers should be open to using him as the centerpiece of this deal following the emergence of Will Smith as the catcher of the present and future. Ruiz, 22, has a 55-grade hit tool and solid defensive skills across the board.
Edwin Rios is a man without a position in Los Angeles, but his huge raw power would be more than welcome to fill the void at first base in Milwaukee. The 26-year-old hit eight home runs in 83 plate appearances this past season, and he would be a low-cost upgrade at a position that was a revolving door in 2020.
DJ Peters is also an MLB-ready bat with huge power potential who has been unable to break through in a crowded Dodgers outfield. His 60-grade raw power and strong arm would fit perfectly in right field, and he has little left to prove after posting an .811 OPS with 23 home runs in the upper levels of the minors in 2019.
Andre Jackson struck out 141 batters in 114.2 innings between Single-A and High-A in 2019, but he's a bit behind the developmental curve at 24 years old. He has the potential to stick as a starter, but his big fastball would suit the bullpen well.
Three potential everyday players and a high-floor power arm would be a stellar haul.
New York Mets
The New York Mets bullpen finished 18th in the majors with a 4.60 ERA in 2020, converting 11 of 18 save chances along the way.
Closer Edwin Diaz bounced back in a big way, saving six games with a 1.75 ERA and 17.5 K/9 in 26 appearances. The relief corps would still benefit greatly from adding another top-tier reliever to the late-inning picture, and it would be the type of flashy move new owner Steve Cohen has promised.
The Return Package
- 1B/OF Dominic Smith
The Brewers used eight different players—Justin Smoak, Jedd Gyorko, Jace Peterson, Ryon Healy, Logan Morrison, Daniel Vogelbach, Ryan Braun and Mark Mathias—at first base during the 2020 season. Only Vogelbach, Peterson and Mathias remain in the Milwaukee organization, and none of them is a clear-cut everyday option.
If the Brewers are seeking a package of players in return for Hader to help rebuild the farm system and bolster their young talent pool, the Mets don't line up well as a trade partner.
However, if their ideal target is an individual player of similar value who would make an immediate impact in pursuit of a playoff berth in 2021, Dominic Smith is the ideal one-for-one swap.
The 25-year-old built on his breakout 2019 season by taking his offensive production to an elite level, hitting .316/.377/.616 for a 169 OPS+ with 21 doubles, 10 home runs and 42 RBI. He will be arbitration-eligible through the 2024 season, making him a clear long-term piece.
Sharing the roster with Pete Alonso, Smith remains miscast as a left fielder (-11.7 UZR/150), and a trade to the Brewers would allow him to move back to his natural position at first base.
On the Mets side, this trade would also clear a path for them to pursue George Springer in free agency.
The Philadelphia Phillies bullpen was a dumpster fire in 2020.
They finished last in the majors with an unsightly 7.06 ERA and nailed down just 11 of 24 save chances while using a staggering 25 different players for at least one relief appearance. Outside of Hector Neris, no one currently on the Philadelphia roster is locked into a spot in the 2021 bullpen.
The Return Package
- RHP Francisco Morales (No. 94 in B/R Top 100)
- SS Bryson Stott (Next 50 in B/R Top 100)
- OF Adam Haseley
- OF Jhailyn Ortiz
Assuming right-hander Spencer Howard is off limits in trade talks, the Phillies are going to have a tough time putting together a competitive package, but they can't be ruled out as a dark-horse suitor.
I'm higher on Francisco Morales than most, with him sneaking into the back end of my latest Top 100 prospect list, and packaging him alongside 2019 first-round pick Bryson Stott would be a strong starting point in negotiations.
Morales, 21, posted a 3.82 ERA with 129 strikeouts in 96.2 innings in his full-season debut in 2019, and he's still just scratching the surface of what could be frontline upside. With a present 60-grade fastball and 60-grade slider, along with a projectable 6'4", 185-pound frame, it's easy to dream about his long-term upside.
Stott, who was chosen No. 14 overall in 2019, has above-average tools across the board and his polished overall game should allow him to reach the majors quickly. He may ultimately profile best at third base, though the development of his power tool might determine his long-term home.
Adam Haseley failed to seize the everyday center field job in 2020, but the No. 8 overall pick in the 2017 draft still has solid potential with an advanced approach at the plate and a 1.8-WAR season under his belt in 67 games of action in 2019.
Taking a flier on free-swinging Jhailyn Ortiz and his 60-grade raw power to round out the package would give Milwaukee another high-ceiling position-player prospect to help bolster its thin system.
It would cost the Phillies two of their top four prospects, but they are already all-in on their current core of players, so there's no reason to flinch now.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres acquired Trevor Rosenthal at the trade deadline to shore up a late-inning picture that also included Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan, and he is now set to cash in on the free-agent market after a bounce-back season.
Austin Adams is one to watch who could step into a prominent late-inning role, and there is no shortage of talented arms in the system, but a trade for Hader would give them one of the best bullpens in baseball.
The Return Package
- C Francisco Mejia
- SP Joey Lucchesi
- IF Tucupita Marcano
- RHP David Bednar
The Padres' decision to trade top prospect Taylor Trammell to the Seattle Mariners at the trade deadline in exchange for 30-year-old catcher Austin Nola speaks volumes to how they feel about Francisco Mejia.
With Nola under control through 2025 and top prospect Luis Campusano knocking on the door, Mejia's opportunity to establish himself behind the plate is rapidly closing. The 25-year-old still has significant offensive potential, though, and he could be a great buy-low pickup for Milwaukee.
Joey Lucchesi was rock solid in 2019 when he went 10-10 with a 4.18 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 158 strikeouts in 163.2 innings, but 2020 was essentially a lost season for him. The 27-year-old is controllable through 2024 and would slot nicely into the Brewers rotation.
Turning to the farm system, Tucupita Marcano announced himself as one to watch when he hit .366/.450/.438 with 15 steals in his stateside debut in 2018. He held his own as a 19-year-old at Single-A the following year and is now arguably the top position-player prospect in the San Diego system behind CJ Abrams and Campusano.
Hard-throwing David Bednar could immediately step into the Milwaukee bullpen. He was flat-out dominant at High-A in 2018 (10 SV, 96 K, 69.1 IP) and Double-A in 2019 (14 SV, 86 K, 58.0 IP) thanks to an upper-90s fastball and a plus splitter.
This is another package tailored toward the Brewers trying to contend in 2021, with Mejia and Lucchesi both potentially filling major roles on the MLB roster.
Toronto Blue Jays
With 2019 closer Ken Giles and 2020 stand-in Anthony Bass both hitting free agency, the Toronto Blue Jays have work to do in rebuilding their bullpen around standout setup relievers Rafael Dolis and Jordan Romano.
Starting pitching is the most glaring need this offseason, but there is something to be said for how a dynamic relief corps can take some pressure off the starting staff. This team looks ready to take a step forward as the young core continues to grow.
The Return Package
- SS/3B Jordan Groshans (No. 67 in B/R Top 100)
- RHP Adam Kloffenstein
- C Reese McGuire
- RHP Yennsy Diaz
- OF Will Robertson
With the exception of a couple of years of Aramis Ramirez and a couple of years of Travis Shaw, third base has been a consistent question mark for the Brewers since Jeff Cirillo manned the hot corner in the late 1990s.
Jordan Groshans could be the answer to their third base question, and if his .337/.427/.482 line in 23 games at Single-A in 2019 is any indication, he's going to be an offensive star. The 2018 first-round pick is currently a shortstop, but there's a good chance he'll outgrow the position before he reaches the majors.
With Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. occupying spots on the Toronto infield, and a wealth of middle-infield talent behind Groshans in the farm system, he could be expendable in the right deal.
The Blue Jays gave Adam Kloffenstein a $2.45 million bonus as a third-round pick in 2018, which is a good indication of his long-term upside. The 6'5", 243-pound right-hander would immediately become the top pitching prospect in the Milwaukee system.
Reese McGuire showed some flashes with a .299/.346/.526 line and five home runs in 30 games in the majors in 2019, and he looks like a trade candidate with Danny Jansen and Alejandro Kirk also vying for time behind the plate.
Yennsy Diaz has a 60-grade fastball and 55-grade curveball combination that would play up if he has to move to the bullpen, while Will Robertson has 55-grade power and a run-producing corner outfielder profile.
Without a marquee secondary piece, the Blue Jays have to go the quantity route when putting together their offer. That could be exactly what the Brewers are seeking, especially if they're high on Groshans.