In a jaw-dropping blockbuster, the Padres agreed to acquire All-Star closer Josh Hader of the Brewers, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link). Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported minutes ago that the Brewers are closing in on a deal with Hader.
The Padres send their closer, Taylor Rogersin Milwaukee back in business, Passan further tweet. Milwaukee will also acquire righty Dinelson Lametpitch perspective Robert Gasser and outside field perspective Esteury Ruiz.
It’s a huge win for the Padres, and while it’s a real surprise to see Milwaukee come closer while holding a three-game lead in National League Central, the reasoning behind the trade is pretty simple. Hader’s $11 million salary will jump north of $15 million next season in his final year in control of the club, and a typically budget-conscious Brewers club may not be willing to spend $15-17 million to a single reliever when that’s such a notable chunk of the overall payroll.
The Brewers, of course, could have retained Hader over the winter and made him available then, but the allure of landing Hader for multiple playoff pushes undeniably allowed them to seek a higher price tag in this moment. To that end, they’re acquiring their own high-end farm in Rogers, who – like Hader – has struggled lately but has a great track record over multiple seasons. Milwaukee also adds a high-octane arm in Lamet, though he’s been plagued by injuries, and two top-ten Padres prospects in Gasser and Ruiz, breathing much-needed life into a farming system. which is not considered a particularly strong one.
It’s the kind of trade we’re used to seeing smaller wage bill clubs like the Rays and Guardians make with regularity: cashing in on the trade value of a coveted player when he’s had multiple seasons in check. of the club and simultaneously fill that spot on the roster with other big league assists. It’s an immediate demotion to the overall roster, but this type of simultaneous act of tightrope buying and selling has been one of the keys to keeping Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and even Milwaukee itself competitive well. that they are rarely able to spend high end. market money.
Hader, 28, sits on a career-worst 4.24 ERA, although that mark was inflated by an unusual pair of back-to-back slumps earlier this month, where he was scored for nine points staggering merits in a third of an inning. Outside of that pair of disastrous outings, Hader has a 1.87 ERA in 33 2/3 innings. He didn’t even allow a run this season until June 7 and knocked out 41.8% of his opponents against an 8.5% walk rate.
Since Hader’s debut in 2017, no one in baseball has surpassed his whopping 44.1% strikeout rate — and they haven’t come particularly close to doing so. (Craig Kimbrel is second at 40.6%.) Hader’s 2.48 ERA in this era is eighth-best among 309 qualified relievers, and no one has exceeded his 19.5% swing strike rate.
The name that follows Hader in this massive swing-striking role – now a former teammate Devin Williams – may have something to do with today’s trading too. The Brewers surely wouldn’t have been so comfortable moving Hader were it not for Williams’ own breakthrough as one of the sport’s most dominant relief pitchers. Armed with a deadly switch (nicknamed the “Airbender”), Williams ranks fourth in strikeout rate (39.9%), second in swing strikeout rate (18.6%) and second for ERA (1.94) among that same subset of skilled relievers just mentioned for Hader.
There’s certainly an argument to be made that Milwaukee should have just kept Hader and out this dominating duo all season and into the upcoming playoffs, but the mix of high-potential immediate replacements (Rogers, Lamet) and the The long-term value of adding a pair of new high-end prospects to the system has proven too alluring to President of Baseball Operations David Stearns, General Manager Matt Arnold and the rest of the Milwaukee staff. .
When it comes to this collection of newly acquired talent, the Brewers are surely hoping Rogers can shake off the recent slump that has plagued him for the past two months. Rogers, 2018-21 with the Twins, was not far behind Hader on the list of the best left-handed relievers in the sport. He worked 197 2/3 frames during that span, hitting a 2.91 ERA with a 31.2% strikeout rate, 4.9% walk rate and 50 saves. However, a torn tendon in his pitching hand cut Rogers short last season, and he was shipped from the Twins to San Diego on the eve of Opening Day.
Rogers embraced his new environment brilliantly, throwing to a dominant 0.44 ERA with a 23-4 K/BB ratio in his first 20 1/3 innings. Since that time, however, he’s been beaten for an 8.14 ERA in an almost identical 21-inning sample. However, Rogers still has an outstanding 25 to 5 K/BB ratio over that ugly stretch, and he’s only allowed one home run along the way. He’s been dogged by a dizzying .429 average on balls in play during this slump, but it’s still hard to ignore a streak that has seen Rogers give up runs in 13 of his last 22 appearances.
Still, Rogers’ record is enticing, and perhaps the Brewers have their own idea of how the southpaw can get back on track. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, making Rogers a pure hire — but he’s ultra-affordable, as the Twins paid all but $700,000 of his salary in the aforementioned trade to the Padres.
Lamet, meanwhile, is another huge bull arm that brewers are buying low on. The flamethrower right-hander was a candidate for Cy Young in the shortened 2020 season, but suffered a bicep injury at the end of the 2020 season and missed a significant part of the 2021 season due to a series of strains in the forearm.
Lamet has driven in 13 earned runs in just 12 1/3 Major League innings this season, but he’s been dominant in Triple-A (0.77 ERA in 11 2/3 frames). His fastball, which averaged 97 mph in 2020, has dropped to an average of 95.3 mph this year. There are obviously a lot of red flags with Lamet, but if he can get back to anything resembling his 2020 form (2.09 ERA, 34.8% strikeout rate, 7.5% walk rate) coming out from the Milwaukee bullpen, he would be a terrific addition to the relief corps both this year and next, as he is eligible for arbitration again ahead of free agency in the 2023 offseason- 24.
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