New Astros relief ace Josh Hader made an appearance on Foul Territory earlier this week during which he discussed his free agency and some of the other teams that pursued him prior to him signing in Houston on a five-year deal last month. Among those teams, Hader noted, were the Dodgers and Yankees. Hader went on to indicate that while those clubs weren’t the only ones to express interest in him throughout the offseason, no other suitor matched the aggressiveness of the Astros, whose $95MM offer broke the record for present-day value for a relief pitcher.
It’s hardly a shock that the Dodgers and Yankees both checked in on the 29-year-old hurler this winter. A five-time All Star and three-time NL Reliever of the Year winner, Hader broke into the majors with the Brewers in 2017 and posted a dominant 2.08 ERA across 47 2/3 innings of work during that rookie campaign. The lefty hasn’t looked back since and has posted an incredible 2.50 ERA and 2.73 FIP while collecting 165 saves across 349 appearances during his career. Hader leads all relievers with an incredible 42.2% strikeout rate since his career began back in 2017, and is coming off an otherworldly platform season where he posted a microscopic 1.28 ERA in 61 appearances.
Both clubs were known to be interested in adding relief help this winter and certainly had the financial resources available to get a deal done, though they ultimately opted to look elsewhere rather than offer Hader the sort of nine-figure deal that would’ve topped Houston’s offer. Hader’s deal with the Astros served as a catalyst for the rest of the high-leverage relief market, and upwards of a dozen bullpen arms with late-inning experience have come off the market since then including the likes of Robert Stephenson, Aroldis Chapman, and David Robertson. In that frenzy of activity, the Dodgers came away with right-hander Ryan Brasier, who dominated to a 0.70 ERA in 39 appearances with the club last year. Meanwhile, the Yankees swung a deal to acquire southpaw Caleb Ferguson from L.A. on the same day the Dodgers landed Brasier.
Both Brasier and Ferguson are quality arms with plenty of late-inning experience under their belts, though neither has the sort of pedigree offered by Hader. While it’s not impossible to imagine either club making another addition to their relief mix before Opening Day, the surefire options still available in free agency are somewhat few and far between. Former Astros right-hander Ryne Stanek is among the options remaining and sports a solid 2.90 ERA over the last three seasons, though the market is largely dominated by bounceback candidates such as Brad Hand and Mychal Givens at this stage of the offseason.
Should either the Dodgers or Yankees decide to further bolster their relief corps in the coming weeks, one possible option who still lingers on the market would be Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen, who the club has reportedly shown a willingness to shop this winter. The Dodgers were connected to Jansen, who spent the first twelve seasons of his career with the club before signing with the Braves prior to the 2022 season, earlier in the offseason. The same can’t be said of the Yankees, though it is worth pointing out that the longtime AL East rivals have shown an increased willingness to trade with each other in recent years, including a deal that sent Alex Verdugo to the Bronx earlier this winter. As a 14-year MLB veteran with 420 career saves and a 3.63 ERA across 51 appearances in Boston last year, Jansen would provide an upgrade to the relief mix of either club, though he’s owed a hefty $16MM in the final year of his contract this season.