Josh Hader’s name is beginning to get summoned as one possible trade target for the New York Mets to pursue. It hasn’t been called upon before. Post-2018, it seems like every offseason includes at least some talk about the Mets and the flamethrowing lefty out of the Milwaukee Brewers bullpen.
The Mets never did make a trade for him. Instead, they added Edwin Diaz in the infamous deal with the Seattle Mariners back at the end of 2018. He has been the ninth inning man ever since with a few exceptions. Most notably, at the end of his first year in New York, the team turned to out relievers more frequently for help.
Brought to us by former Mets general manager Jim Bowden, Hader’s name is back in the discussion. The Mets and Brewers would seem to be logical trade partners; an abundance of throwers in Milwaukee with a surplus of swingers in Queens. Rather than discuss the trade Bowden put together (Sports Illustrated’s Pat Ragazzo did a fine job of that already), I want to pose a different question: how badly do the Mets need Hader?
Josh Hader would be a luxury item on the Mets roster
Hader’s five-year career has included only some minor dips along the way. He’s now the owner of a 2.26 ERA in 282.1 innings of work and 96 total saves. He has been the club’s full-time closer since 2019, racking up save totals of 37, 13 (a league leading number in 2020), and 34.
His most recent season showed us Hader can continue to get better. He wrapped up 2021 with a 1.23 ERA while continuing to do what he does best: strike guys out. Hader has been one of the league’s most prolific strikeout pitchers, fanning batters at a rate of 15.4 per nine.
Compared to Diaz, Hader looks a whole lot more special. Even if we include his numbers in Seattle, Hader has allowed about a full run less than Diaz per nine innings in his career. Remove the Mariners years and Hader feels a lot more necessary.
What the Mets should have in mind when it comes to a Josh Hader trade
Aside from the obvious like the cost of the deal, the Mets have a few other important questions to ask. In 2022, Diaz and Hader could co-exist. One would have to move into a setup role, an option that could prove detrimental. We’ve seen firsthand how poorly Diaz pitches when he’s not in a save situation. It might not work out so well.
On the other hand, paying a steep price to land Hader only to put him in the eighth inning role or possible backup to Diaz as the closer doesn’t seem so favorable either. Even if he does succeed, the Mets are undoubtedly sending a lot to Milwaukee only to have a single reliever added to the roster. There has to be a better way.
There is another benefit of adding Hader now. A free agent after the 2023 season, he’s a season behind Diaz when it comes to hitting the open market. The Mets can answer “who is your closer in 2023?” right now by adding him to the roster. A new deal could then hold him in place for the next few seasons. More proven than Diaz, I think every Mets fan would swap them. It’s not that easy, though. The Mets would have to give up something else in order to bring him to New York and right now, the plan would be for them to work together in the bullpen.
Instead of paying the big toll, the Mets might find themselves better off adding different lefties to the bullpen. There’s nothing in the baseball manual that says you have to pay your minor leaguers livable wages or that your closer has to be a dominant strikeout guy. Aaron Loup, for example, could have finessed his way into more successful eighth or ninth innings last season.
Hader to the Mets makes the team better for sure. The urgency to make it happen, however, isn’t there.