The Houston Astros have officially made their first big splash of the offseason, signing one of the game’s best closer to a huge contract.
Coming off a season where he pitched to a sparkling 1.28 ERA in 56 1/3 innings pitched with the San Diego Padres, Josh Hader is now taking his talents to the Lone Star State to pitch for the Astros.
Hader, 29, set out to become the highest paid reliever in MLB history this offseason, looking to top the five-year, $102 million contract that Edwin Diaz signed last winter. While Hader’s contract is not more than Diaz’s in total dollars, it is in present money value.
As Shohei Ohtani taught us all this offseason, deferrals bring down the present money value of a contract, making it less of a hit to team’s luxury tax payroll.
In Diaz’s case, the Mets deferred $26.5 million over 10 years, bringing the present money value of the contract down from $102 million, to around $93 million.
With that in mind, Hader’s contract is technically the richest ever for a relief pitcher, as there are no deferrals involved in the $95 million deal.
Back to the Houston Astros
Now this is not the first time that Hader will be a member of the Houston Astros, having first made a pit stop in the organization back in 2013. Originally a 19th-round pick by the Baltimore Orioles in 2012, Hader was traded to Houston in a deal at the 2013 trade deadline that sent Bud Norris to Baltimore.
A few trade deadlines later, Hader was one of four prospects traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in a deal that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Astros in 2015. Now here we are nearly a full decade later and Hader joins the Astros as one of the game’s most accomplished closers.
Hader spent the first six seasons of his MLB career with the Brewers, before being traded for a third time at the 2022 deadline. He then spent the last year and a half with the Padres. Put it altogether, Hader has pitched for seven seasons and has a career 2.50 ERA.
Since 2019, when he took over as the Brewers full-time closer, Hader leads all MLB relievers with his 153 games saved and with his strikeout rate of 42%. Adding his dynamic left-handed arm into a bullpen that already includes incumbent closer Ryan Pressley and Bryan Abreu is a nasty combination.
Considering the Texas Rangers needs in their bullpen, many pegged them as the favorites to sign Hader this offseason. Instead the Astros have won the bidding, taking what was already a team strength and making it arguably the best bullpen unit in Major League Baseball.