The Houston Astros closed a massive gap in their bullpen today. Former San Diego Padre relief pitcher Josh Hader’s signing helps quell a loud, silent off-season. The Astros suffered an off-season that caused some upheaval that needs to be addressed. Hader signed a five-year, $95M deal to come to the Astros, a move that might have ramifications during the next off-season.

A Depleted Bullpen

The Astros started the off-season deficient with the departures of free-agent bullpen hurlers Héctor Neris, Phil Maton, and Ryne Stanek. Then, with reliever Kendall Graveman’s injury departure, the Astros quickly found themselves behind the 8-ball heading into 2024.

Of course, the off-season and spring training could have produced the Astros with a bevy of arms. However, with McCullers and Garcia out to start the season, whoever the Astros added to their bullpen in the interim would go a long way in shoring up their arsenal. The Hader signing, though, will go a long way in placing a fearsome arsenal to their opponents before taking the field.

Pre-Season Splash

The Astros decided to make a late off-season splash before heading into Spring Training. Josh Hader, arguably the best relief pitcher in Major League Baseball over the past seven seasons, is officially off the market following an extensive contract discussion. The All-Star closer, most recently with the San Diego Padres, signed a five-year, $95 million deal with the Astros on Friday, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Astros fans watching signing trends from owner Jim Crane were shocked by this signing. The contract, which is the largest for a relief pitcher in baseball, means the Astros pick up the best reliever in the majors.

Hader’s Career

A former Astros farmhand, Hader made himself a name with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2017. Since that time, Hader has posed the highest fWAR among all major league relievers. Throughout his career, the lefty Hader had picked up 648 strikeouts and a 2.50 ERA over 388 2/3 innings. His ERA, year over year – aside from a 2022 season that saw a 5.22 ERA in 50 innings, Hader tracked better than the league averages every season he has been on a major league squad.

Following that elevated season, Hader bounced back and posted a 1.28 ERA over 56 1/3 innings with the Friars. This falls more in line with his posted career statistics. Additionally, over the past seven years in the major leagues, Hader has made the All-Star team in five. He has also won the National League Reliever of the Year award three times.

While Hader was considered one of the valuable relievers during this off-season market, he does come with some hesitation. Over the past season, his average fastball velocity declined more than a full mile-per-hour, dropping from 97.4 to 96.1 mph. Despite this, he used this effectively, allowing just a .190 average against his fastball last season. This adjustment tracks with additional pitchers who have joined the Astros rotation and bullpen over the past decade.

This signing shores up the Astros bullpen, bereft of issues since the closure of the past season. Hader will join closer Ryan Pressly in what will be a restructured bullpen this upcoming season. Despite losing multiple aces, the Hader addition should help answer some questions heading into spring training.

Main Photo Credits: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

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