The New York Yankees have signed ace Gerrit Cole and outfielder Brett Gardner this week, but Brian Cashman already has his sights set on another All-Star. The Yankees are considered the "most active pursuer" of Milwaukee Brewers closer Josh Hader, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. (The Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets are also named.)
Hader, 25, has been one of the most effective relievers in baseball since his debut in 2017. He's accumulated a career 178 ERA+ and 4.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio despite aggressive usage that has often involved multi-inning outings. For perspective, there's only one pitcher in baseball with 30-plus saves who has thrown more innings the past two seasons than Hader's 157 -- and that's Ian Kennedy, who started 22 games during that span. The next closest pitcher, Raisel Iglesias, trails Hader by nearly 20 innings.
The Brewers are, nonetheless, weighing a Hader trade for multiple reasons. Namely, their well-below-average farm system could use the talent injection, and they know Hader is going to become costly through arbitration. He's projected to make around $5 million next season, but will then have three additional seasons of eligibility remaining. With how teams operate now, this could well be Milwaukee's best chance to land a monster package in return.
An added benefit for the Brewers would be creating additional budget space. No team has operated more like they're capped out this winter than Milwaukee. The Brewers have either traded or let loose a number of useful contributors -- be it Chase Anderson, Junior Guerra, Jimmy Nelson, Travis Shaw, or Eric Thames -- in the name of saving money. They're also known to be open to trading just about anyone on the roster, save for Christian Yelich. Moving Hader would create another hole, but that's life for a team with a self-imposed limited budget.
Even so, it's not clear if a Hader trade will occur. The Brewers have no reason to give him away, and the Yankees might opt against parting with the prospects and further weakening a lacking farm system. Should the Yankees pass, they could turn their attention to re-signing Dellin Betances, or toward a different trade candidate -- New York was known to inquire on at least one All-Star-caliber closer in July, per league sources, though obviously no deal was completed.
Whatever the Yankees do (or don't do), they would appear to already have one of the best bullpens on paper thanks to a back end that includes Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green. It is worth noting that the Yankees are now more than $40 million over the luxury tax line with Gardner in tow. If the Yankees succeed in moving J.A. Happ's contract, they'll have to walk a tightrope to add anyone of note. In that regard Hader, with his suppressed earning potential, would fit them better than any free agent.