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Is a Josh Hader trade worth making?

There’s some rumors around Josh Hader. Real or not, it’s the kind of thing that keeps you hanging on to baseball while everything outside freezes and the windstorm of Gerrit Cole has calmed down. (For now.)

Now we all wait as Brian Cashman and Mr. Steinbrenner plot their next move – if a next move even comes. If that move does include Josh Hader though, the organization’s loss of Dellin Betances lessens because he’s that damn good. (At least it does from a depth standpoint. Emotionally losing Dellin is tough.)

A disciple of the Pitching Ninja

Hader is one those Pitching Ninja elites who ends up showing up on Rob Friedman’s feed just about anytime he takes the mound. Sometimes it’s for an immaculate inning. Other times it’s for a disgusting fastball / slider overlay that just should not be allowed to be real. A good majority of the time it’s to show his fastball disappears in ways that defy physics.

These are all beautiful images and even if he isn’t traded to the Yankees, appreciate them. To throw a ball like that is a superhuman ability that can only be explained if you combine science and witchcraft.

The Numbers

The eyes tell you Hader is good. So too do the numbers. He’s kind of like Cole where there are no lies in his abilities and everything checks out.

This is Hader among relievers since 2017 and where he ranks around the league:

204 IP (13th)
2.42 ERA (8th)
2.74 FIP (13th)
.85 WHIP (1st)
.146 Opponent AVG (1st)
15.3 K/9 (2nd)

Now here is something alarming. Look at the Hard Hit % & Exit Velo from 2018:

Now here is 2019:

I’m not a coach. I’ve only ever written about baseball. It’s hard to say why he has gotten hit so hard. If I had to guess it’s from overuse and, if he’s with the Yankees, Hader doesn’t get used in the way he has with Milwaukee.

In Milwaukee they essentially only had him to depend on. To throw him out there for two to three innings at a time was a necessity in order to survive. For the Yankees that wont be problem. They also have Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to lean on. As cool as it was to see him be a middle-of-the-game pseudo starter, the Yankees will never use him that way. Fatigue won’t be as much of an issue the more you extend the pen.

You Can’t Have too Much Pitching

Even though the Yankees inked Gerrit Cole, if you grew up during an era where the team put a premium on arms – guys the likes of David Cone, David Wells, Rogers Clemens and Mike Mussina all donning pinstripes in a decades-long span – then getting Hader would be a return to the old way and moving away from the thought that you can just slug your way to a title. (See the 2004 experiment to show how that worked out.)

Granted, Hader isn’t a starter but he’s had such dominant stretches you can create the category Relief Ace for him. He has been great for a three-year stretch of time that really makes you wonder how he’ll mature as a pitcher as long as he stays healthy. If the Yankees can, obviously they should get Hader – especially now that Dellin is off the market and moving down the street to Queens.

Seriously though what the hell is this? My brain doesn’t like it.

Just imagine a world where Cole throws 7 strong innings. The Yankees will then have a choice to go with old reliable in Zack Britton or the King of Gas, the Prince of Fire, Another-Nickname-Related-To-Burning, Josh Hader. After that you have Aroldis Chapman. You win most of those games.

A string of arms such as these is just unfair. There is nobody to look forward to. All you can do is hope somebody makes a mistake. (Or set up a camera to see what’s coming.)

The Tactical Advantages of Hader

Let’s say you take Cole out of the equation for now. Put the Yankees in a similar situation that they were in during the 2019 ALCS. You bring an elite bullpen arm you can trust such as Hader, a few issues that we saw last postseason are fixed.

For one, you aren’t going to need to overuse anybody. You’ll also have some wiggle room in case guys are off. The overuse was an issue for Chad Green and we don’t have to talk about Ottavino if you don’t want to. With Dellin out and the guys behind our A-bullpen feeling like the C-squad during a blow-out game, the relief arms were over-exposed and all the Astros had to do was bide their time.

With Hader, even if you have a starter go between 5 and 6 innings, you can feel confident that there are a medley of guys to choose from to bridge you to that ninth inning. That’s even if you’re in a situation that we saw with Ottavino where a reliever can’t find the plate and when the does, his balls are crushed.

Depth is everything.

No Time to be Cute

Getting Gerrit Cole shows the Yankees aren’t playing. They aren’t being cute the way they were in years past like with Javier Vazquez the nine times they tried thinking he’d make it in New York or, in more recent memory, going for Sonny Gray instead of Justin Verlander.

Right now Daniel Hudson is on the market and he feels like one of those cute moves. Maybe it works and you look like a genius. Maybe it doesn’t. At that point you find yourself watching another guy come smiling off the mound.

Any transactions the Yankees make should be an impact move. (That sounds so obvious but if you’re old enough to remember Kei Igawa, this bares repeating.) If there is a choice between a Hudson or a Hader and the price of a Hader means you have to spend on prospects in ways you’re uncomfortable, the Yankees have to do it. (Unless you’re giving away the farm. Everything should be within reason. Don’t give the rights to the RailRiders to Milwaukee.)

A rotation or a bullpen in Major League Baseball are not things you can just paste together. We saw what happened to Boston when they decided to go to a Closer By Committee. (Gleyber Torres ended up having a field day.) In the playoffs, we saw with the Yankees what happens when you decide to have a rotation with upside but hasn’t shown all year if they can go the distance.

That’s how you lose. That’s how you spend the next decade looking forward to next year every September and October.