Astros fans, the wait is over! On Friday, Houston made a significant free-agent move, sealing a five-year, $95 million deal with left-handed pitcher Josh Hader, the coveted top reliever in the market. The move is set to fortify the Astros’ pitching staff, which faced challenges due to a bullpen arm injury and ongoing negotiations to bring back another key player.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Hader’s contract stands out with its immediate value, containing no deferrals. In fact, it marks the largest present-day value contract for a relief pitcher in the history of baseball.
Turning 30 in April, Hader’s journey to the Astros includes being a 19th-round pick by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft. He spent time in the Astros’ farm system from 2013 to 2015 before being traded to the Milwaukee Brewers system in a deal that brought Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston.
Hader made his MLB debut with the Brewers in 2017, and his breakout season occurred in 2018 when he earned his first of five All-Star nods and finished in the top seven for the National League Cy Young Award vote. His performance with the Milwaukee Brewers continued until the 2022 season when he was traded midseason to the San Diego Padres. Despite a decline in performance, Hader played a crucial role in the Padres’ journey to the National League Championship Series, earning him a one-year, $14.1 million deal in his final arbitration-eligible year.
The Astros had been linked to Hader in recent weeks, coinciding with negotiations to retain free-agent setup reliever Hector Neris and addressing Kendall Graveman’s season-ending injury.
Hader, who has primarily served as a closer in recent years, might take on the eighth inning for the Astros, with the current closer Ryan Pressly becoming a free agent after the upcoming season. The newly inked deal for Hader includes full no-trade protection, no opt-outs, and no options. He is set to receive an annual salary of $19 million and can earn an additional $1 million for winning the Reliever of the Year Award, a feat he achieved in 2018, 2019, and 2021. Astros fans can now anticipate an even stronger bullpen with the addition of this top-tier reliever.