MLB Free Agency Rumors: Josh Hader Holding Up Market For Relief Pitchers

Originally published by DodgerBlue.com

With roughly a month until the start of Spring Training, many notable free agents remain unsigned. The relief market has yet to develop, with Josh Hader leading the group of available players entering Friday.

The five-time All-Star was believed to be holding out for one of the largest contracts given to a reliever. He has been one of the most dominant closers since debuting in 2017, recording 165 saves with a 2.50 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 15 strikeouts per nine over 349 games.

One National League executive believed the market for relief pitchers will remain stagnant until Hader signs with a team, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com:

“I think the Hader domino needs to fall first,” a National League executive said of the reliever logjam. “I can’t see any other reason the market is slow for them. Sometimes these guys at the top can hold up everything.”

After Hader, the top free-agent relief pitcher is Robert Stephenson. The right-hander is coming off a career year and should receive a multi-year contract, but likely won’t sign until Hader comes off the board, creating a further logjam of relievers:

“He’s holding up Stephenson, which is holding up the next guy, and so on,” an AL executive said.

Although Stephenson is probably going to wait for Hader to sign, the Los Angeles Dodgers remain interested in the right-hander.

Stephenson started the 2023 season with the Pittsburgh Pirates but was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays in June for Alika Williams.

He went a combined 3-4 with a 3.10 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 0.88 WHIP and a 38.3% strikeout rate in 60 appearances last year. Stephenson had career-best marks in ERA, WHIP, strikeout percentage, games and opponents’ batting average (.162).

The Dodgers don’t necessarily need to add another reliever, but they could be opportunistic and attempt to sign one of the aforementioned names if the price is right.

In addition to Hader and Stephenson, the Dodgers have also expressed interest in a reunion with Ryan Brasier, who found success after joining the Dodgers midway through the 2023 season.

Astros sign Josh Hader

After reports of the Houston Astros making a strong effort to sign Hader, they now have agreed to terms on a record-setting contract for a relief pitcher in terms of present day value.

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