HOUSTON (AP) — Josh Hader and the Houston Astros weren't ready to define what his bullpen role will be on the day they announced his $95 million, five-year contract.
It appears likely he will take over as closer and push Ryan Pressly back to a setup job in a bullpen that also includes Rafael Montero and Bryan Abreu.
But Hader and general manager Dana Brown refused to say if that was the plan.
“We signed here to win baseball games, to win a championship,” Hader said Monday when asked if he expected to be the team's closer. “I think like Dana said, Ryan’s in the same boat and we’re all in the same boat to do whatever we can and win ballgames and take it to the final step.”
Regardless of what inning Hader is used in, the Astros are excited to have the combination of him, Pressly and Abreu to pitch the late innings.
“This is a pretty special arm and he’s he’s a part of a pretty special trio in the back,” Brown said.
Hader will get a $19 million salary in each of the next five seasons, none of it deferred. He gets a full no-trade provision and would receive a $1 million bonus for winning the Mariano Rivera/Trevor Hoffman Reliever of the Year Award.
Hader’s deal can be considered the most lucrative for a relief pitcher, even while falling short of the total dollars in Edwin Díaz’s $102 million, five-year contract with the New York Mets that began last year. Díaz’s deal includes $26.5 million in deferred payments he won’t completely receive until 2042 and was valued at $93.2 million for baseball’s luxury tax and $88.8 million by the players’ association.
A 29-year-old with long, flowing hair, Hader returns to the Astros organization after spending two years in their minor league system from mid-2013 through mid-2015.
Hader is excited to finally play for the Astros after being traded before reaching the big leagues. He added that he's kept ties to Texas after meeting his wife Maria Hader in Corpus Christi, Texas when he played for Houston's Double-A affiliate there.
“I promise to give you all I have on the field and in the community,” he said. “We’re excited to be here to win now and for many years to come.”
New manager Joe Espada, hired after Dusty Baker retired at the end of last season, was thrilled to add Hader to the Astros.
“Adding someone like Josh to our team, an already elite team, puts us a step closer to achieving our goals, which is winning, which is getting back to the World Series,” Espada said. “Today’s a big day for Houston.”
Héctor Neris became a free agent and remains unsigned. Houston reached the agreement three days after announcing reliever Kendall Graveman will miss the season after right shoulder surgery. Brown said the deal with Hader came together in a 72-hour period last week.
Hader became a free agent for the first time last fall after turning down a $20,325,000 qualifying offer from San Diego, which acquired him in a deadline trade from Milwaukee in 2022. Hader made $14.1 million last year.
He's looking forward to playing with new teammates who have World Series rings after Houston won titles in both 2017 and 2022.
“The goal is to win... the World Series,” Hader said. “And when the team has already done that multiple times and they know how to get there and they know how to take it all the way through the playoffs, you can learn something like that in your career. And I think that was the one thing that I was missing in my career that I could benefit from.”
He was 2-3 with a 1.28 ERA and 33 saves in 38 chances for San Diego in 61 appearances last season, striking out 85 and walking 30 in 56 1/3 innings. He disappointed in his Padres debut season with a 7.31 ERA and seven saves over 19 games down the stretch.
Hader has been picked to the last five National League All-Star teams, starting in 2018, his first full season in the big leagues. During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when there wasn’t an All-Star Game, Hader had 13 saves to lead the NL for the only time.
He is 20-21 with a 2.50 ERA with 165 saves in 190 chances over 349 appearances with the Brewers and Padres.
A Maryland native, Hader was a 19th-round draft pick out of high school by Baltimore in the 2012 amateur draft. Hader got traded a year later to Houston, which in 2015 sent him to Milwaukee as part of a six-player deal. He made his big league debut in June 2017, and had a 2.08 ERA in 35 appearances the rest of that season.
Because Hader turned down a qualifying offer, San Diego will receive an extra pick in next July’s amateur draft. Houston will forfeit a draft selection.
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