Josh Hader has been one of baseball’s best closers for the better part of the past six seasons. For the first time in his career, the southpaw has hit free agency after spending the 2023 season with the San Diego Padres.
The Dodgers’ bullpen was one of the best in baseball— most notably in the second half— during the 2023 season, finishing with the second lowest ERA in the National League behind the Milwaukee Brewers. The Dodgers have the majority of their bullpen retained for the 2024 season, yet they only have two primary left-handed relievers in Caleb Ferguson and Alex Vesia.
Here are two main reasons for why the Dodgers should sign Josh Hader.
Bona fide all star closer
The Dodgers haven’t had a primary closer in their bullpen since the 2022 season, where Craig Kimbrel maintained the position for most of the season before Evan Phillips was named as the de facto closer. The Dodgers haven’t had a closer make the All Star team since they still had Kenley Jansen, who last made an All Star appearance as a Dodger in 2018.
Since that same 2018 season, Hader has made the All Star team in every full regular season, even in an atypically down 2022 season split with Milwaukee and San Diego. Hader has also been named the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year three times in his career. Since 2014, Hader is the only pitcher to have won the award three times, with Kenley Jansen and former teammate Devin Williams having won it twice.
Since the 2021 season, Hader has been named an All Star three years in a row, combining for a 2.45 ERA with 103 saves and an excellent 167 ERA+, even after posting a combined 77 ERA+ during the 2022 season. He might not be the same reliever who will strike out over 140 hitters, just as he did in 2018, but he continuously posts impressive strikeout numbers, posting 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings, which is somehow the lowest mark he’s posted since his rookie season in 2017.
Long-term solution at closer
Hader is currently well within his physical prime and will be turning 30 years old in the early weeks of the 2024 regular season. Whichever team signs Hader will understand that he will be there for at least five seasons.
Jon Heyman of The Athletic has reported that Hader wishes to sign a contract north of Edwin Diaz’s five year, $102 million deal he signed with the New York Mets, and the Dodgers are currently one of three teams still maintaining interest in the closer.
If there’s any reason for why Hader should deserve such a contract, he has landed on the injured list just once throughout his entire major league career, missing just ten days during the 2021 season due to Covid-19. Even for a pitcher who registers within the 85th percentile in average fastball velocity, he hasn’t dealt with any elbow or shoulder injuries up to this point in his career.
When looking at the Dodgers’ current roster, there are only four relievers that are projected to remain on the team after the 2025 season, including star relievers Brusdar Graterol and Evan Phillips, which would leave the bullpen unidentifiable compared to the current day bullpen. Adding a reliever like Hader to a long-term contract would help the Dodgers secure one of the baseball’s best closers to a deal that could last until after the 2028 season, and would solve any future questions about who will be the main closer on the team.
As previously mentioned, the Dodgers’ bullpen was one of the best in baseball during the 2023 season, and relievers such as Blake Treinen and J.P. Feyereisen will be making their return to the team in 2024, with the latter set to make his Dodgers debut. As far as the long term solutions go for the Dodgers, Josh Hader is seemingly the ideal candidate to round out an already fantastic bullpen.
Adding a closer like Hader would mean the Dodgers are getting a closer who has been named an All Star five times in his career, a pitcher who ranks within the 85th percentile in average exit velocity and the 99th percentile in strikeout percentage, and a reliever who can bridge the transition between the current bullpen and what the bullpen could look like over the course of the next five years.