The Houston Astros have added a big piece to their bullpen. The Astros and five-time All-Star closer Josh Hader have agreed to a five-year contract worth $95 million, CBS Sports HQ’s Jim Bowden confirmed Friday.
Hader, 29, bounced back from up-and-down 2022 season with one of his best efforts in 2023 for the Padres. The hard-throwing southpaw went 33 for 38 in save chances and pitched to a 1.28 ERA in 56 1/3 innings. He struck out 85 of the 231 batters he faced, or a stellar 36.8%. Hader is prone to walking hitters, though few miss as many bats.
Our R.J. Anderson ranked Hader the No. 14 free agent available this offseason. Here’s his write-up:
Hader has a sinker like none other: it’s thrown with the standard grip, yet it possesses the backspin of a four-seamer. Predictably, perhaps, his sinker led the majors in induced vertical break (min. 200 thrown) despite him releasing the ball several inches lower than anyone else in the top 10, creating an unholy optical illusion that batters have not solved on a consistent basis. Plunking down $20-plus million on a closer isn’t for everyone, and some suitors might raise their eyebrows at Hader’s strikeout and walk rates moving in the wrong direction. It’s hard to knock the results, however.
The largest contract ever given to reliever, both in terms of total guarantee and average annual value, remains Edwin Diaz’s five-year contract with the New York Mets. That deal is worth $102 million ($20.4 million annually). Prior to Hader, the second-largest reliever contract was Aroldis Chapman’s five-year, $86 million deal with the New York Yankees.
This will actually be Hader’s second stint with the Astros, albeit his first in a big-league role. During his prospect days, he was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles in July 2013 as part of a deal involving Bud Norris. He was then traded to the Milwaukee Brewers two years later to obtain Mike Fiers (who was the first player to publicly speak out about the Astros’ electronic sign-stealing operation) and Carlos Gómez.
Hader joins an Astros bullpen that will be without veteran right-hander Kendall Graveman, who was announced earlier this week as being out for the season following shoulder surgery. It stands to reason Hader will take over as Houston’s closer, with Ryan Pressly moving into setup duty alongside Bryan Abreu and Rafael Montero.
Hader is, by far, the most notable addition Houston has made this winter. Previously, that distinction had belonged to backup catcher Victor Caratini. The Astros, fresh off another appearance in the AL Championship Series, are entering a pivotal season. Not only do they have a new manager in place, in Joe Espada, but in a year’s time they’ll see Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Justin Verlander qualify for free agency.
Hader rejected the qualifying offer earlier this offseason. Because the Padres owe competitive balance tax for the 2023 season, they will only receive a compensation draft pick after the fourth round for losing Hader.