Josh Hader deal with Astros MLBcom

Josh Hader deal with Astros –

HOUSTON – The Astros addressed their biggest offseason need in a big way on Friday, agreeing to a five-year, $95 million contract with free agent All-Star reliever Josh Hader pending a physical exam, a source said Mark Feinsand of with . The team has not officially announced the deal.

Hader, a left-handed hitter, returns to an Astros organization where he was the club's minor league pitcher of the year in 2014 before being traded to the Brewers in 2015, which brought Carlos Gómez and Mike Fiers to Houston. The agreement comes just days after the Astros lost veteran backup Kendall Graveman for the season following right shoulder surgery.

Houston's bullpen had been destroyed after Hector Neris, Phil Maton and Ryne Stanek pitched 185 innings in relief last year and hit free agency. The addition of Hader gives the Astros a strong back end with Ryan Pressly – who has 90 saves over the last three seasons – and dominant setup man Bryan Abreu.

“We think we have a good team and it’s a great addition to our bullpen,” Astros owner Jim Crane told “With Pressly and Abreu.” [and Hader], They have three good guys, 7-8-9, wherever they pitch. We think it gives us a good chance to make the playoffs and be in another World Series.”

According to Feinsand, Hader will earn $19 million per season under his new contract, which does not include any exit or club options. The total value of $95 million exceeds the current value of Edwin Díaz's $102 million contract with the Mets signed last winter, which was $93.2 million after deferred payments.

Hader's deal includes a full no-trade clause, according to the source, as well as a bonus for winning the Reliever of the Year Award, named after Mariano Rivera in the American League. Houston will forgo a pick in the 2024 MLB Draft because Hader declined a qualifying offer from San Diego.

Arguably the best left-handed hitter in MLB, Hader was named an NL All-Star five times in his career before hitting the free-agent market for the first time. The 29-year-old did this with flying colors and proved that his poor 2022 was most likely a deviation from the dominant 2023 season.

Hader delivered a standout 2023 for the Padres, posting a 1.28 ERA in 56 1/3 innings. He held opposing batters to a .163 average and a slugging percentage of just .224. While Hader's 36.8% strikeout rate was his lowest since his rookie year in 2017, that K rate was still in the 99th percentile in MLB.

Despite his struggles in 2022, particularly after a midseason trade from Milwaukee to San Diego, Hader has been a reliable late-inning option throughout his career. In 2023, he saved 33 games in 38 attempts for the Padres, appearing before the ninth inning just once all season. He wasn't used as often as some closers, as his 61 appearances ranked 74th in the entire MLB, but Hader has long been one of MLB's most consistent relievers. He has thrown 50 or more innings in every full season (not counting 2020) since 2018, and his only stint on the injured list in his career came after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Hader has elite qualities, most notably with a sinker that averaged 96.1 mph in 2023 – ranking sixth among qualified lefties. His arsenal also included a slider that held opposing batters to a paltry .100/.151/.120 line in 1923. Hader also has an effective changeup, but he threw it only 3.4% of the time in 1923 and almost never to lefties.

Name a Statcast metric and there's a pretty good chance Hader is among the MLB elite in it. His expected WOBA in 2023 ranked third in the MLB, with his expected batting average trailing only Félix Bautista of the Orioles. Hader also ranked above the 90th percentile in hard hit rate (97th), barrel rate (92nd), chase rate (92nd) and whiff rate (91st).

However, Hader struggled with his walks, posting a 13.0% walk rate, the highest of his career, which was in the fifth percentile in MLB. It was pretty much the only downside to a rebound campaign in 2023, a year after Hader's hard hit and barrel rates went in the wrong direction. Uncharacteristically hard-hit and unlucky, Hader posted a 7.31 ERA in 19 games with the Padres in 2022. He finished the 2022 season with an unsightly ERA of 5.22. But after righting the ship in his year at walk, Hader established himself as the gem of the free-agent reliever class — not to mention being one of the youngest relievers on the market.