Milwaukee Brewers trade closer Josh Hader to San Diego for four players

For three years now, the Milwaukee Brewers have been fielding calls on closer Josh Hader.

On Monday, they finally pulled the trigger and dealt their perennial all-star closer to the San Diego Padres.

Coming back to the Brewers was a four-player haul that helps them both in the here as they attempt to seal up a fifth consecutive postseason appearance as well as in the future as they attempt to remain in winning mode for the long term.

The "now" portion features Taylor Rogers, a left-hander who saved 28 games for the Padres, and right-hander Dinelson Lamet, a talented but oft-injured right-hander who will pitch out of the bullpen.


The future portion of the deal includes outfielder Esteury Ruiz, a speedster who broke into the major leagues this year and might well wear a Brewers uniform before the season is over, and left-hander Robert Gasser, San Diego's second-round draft pick in 2021.

"What I’d say is for the last three years, anytime you’d get into a trading season – whether it was the trade deadline or the Winter Meetings – we would have teams call us," president of baseball operations David Stearns said. "We have never made an outgoing call on Josh Hader, and that was true this deadline as well. But we have received many incoming calls, and that was true this deadline and as we always do, we listened.

"And in this case we had a couple of very aggressive teams that pursued Josh and ultimately the San Diego deal was the one that was in the best interest of our organization."

Balancing winning now while trying to remain competitive for the long term was a point Stearns repeatedly hammered home when discussing the ramifications of trading one of the game's top closers in the prime of his career as well as one of the franchise's most popular players.

One need look no further than beneath the Brewers in the Central Division standings, where the Pittsburgh Pirates have been mired for multiple seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs also now in the midst of what are expected to be long rebuilds.

"These are difficult decisions," Stearns said. "We've done our best to determine how we can extend our window of competitiveness as long as possible, how we can avoid some of the deep downsides that certain organizations have experienced.

"We believe that making decisions like this -- regardless of how difficult they may be at that point in time -- is really essential. Mark (Attanasio), his family, our ownership group, they are not interested in a prolonged rebuild -- ever. Our fan base is not interested in a prolonged rebuild, ever.

"In order to avoid those prolonged down-cycles, we believe that occasionally making a very difficult decision like this is needed, and that's why we made the move today."

More: Here are relief pitcher Josh Hader's stats with the Milwaukee Brewers

More: Learn more about the players the Brewers got in the Josh Hader trade

Hader, 28, is in the midst of a fourth all-star season, one in which he opened by recording saves in each of his first 18 appearances — a major-league record.

But the left-hander hit a rough patch in recent weeks, culminated by a six-run blowup in the ninth inning of an eventual loss at San Francisco just prior to the all-star break.

Hader has since recovered a bit and pitched better in subsequent outings

For the season, Hader is 1-4 with a 4.24 earned-run average, a WHIP of 1.12 and a major-league-leading 29 saves in 34 appearances. He has also struck out 59 in 34 innings.

Stearns said Hader's recent struggles didn't factor into the trade.

"Players are allowed to have hiccups. Players are allowed to occasionally struggle," Stearns said. "Josh has performed at such a high level that I don’t read too much into that.”

With one more year of arbitration remaining, Hader will make north of $15 million next season, a price point that quite simply wouldn't make sense for the Brewers.

"The first factor is the strength of the proposal that the Padres put in front of us," said Stearns. "We believe this is a very good package of players that benefits our team both now and for many years to come in a very impactful way.

"And then, as Josh has worked through the arbitration system, nearing the end of his time in the arbitration system, these conversations naturally get a little bit more pronounced and a little bit more focused.

"I think the combination of those two factors led to the timing right now.”

In addition to being one of the most popular players among Brewers fans, Hader was also extremely well-liked among his teammates, with reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes his best friend on the team.

Stearns was asked if he was concerned about the reaction to the trade from the clubhouse.

"I've talked to a number of our players, I've talked to a number of our coaches and I think people understand the business side of this," said Stearns. "People understand that decisions have to be made. They're sad to lose a friend. They're sad to lose a really good co-worker. I think they understand what we're doing and why we're doing it but sure, it's still tough.

"A lot of these guys have known Josh for almost the entirety of their professional careers. They've come up together, they've grown together, they've won a lot of games together. For a good segment of our clubhouse, this was difficult news. I do think they'll rally.

"I think they have confidence in the other players we have in our bullpen, our arms and what our team currently is but very understandably, I think there is some sadness about seeing a friend walk out that door."

More: The Brewers traded all-star closer Josh Hader to San Diego. Here's how Twitter reacted.

Hader was initially acquired in the 2015 trade that sent Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Houston Astros in exchange for Hader, Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips and Adrian Houser.

In 269 career appearances with the Brewers, Hader went 17-17 with 125 saves, earning three NL Reliever of the Year awards along the way. He struck out 541 batters in 316⅓ innings, a rate of 15.4 per nine.

He was the first Milwaukee reliever to be named an all-star four times, although he chose not to participate in last month's game in order to be able to spend time with his wife and newborn son.

Who did the Brewers get in the trade?

Rogers, who is also scheduled to become a free agent after the 2022 season, is making $7.3 million this season compared to Hader's $11 million salary.

He is 1-5 with a 4.35 ERA and WHIP of 1.11 in 42 appearances and has struck out 48 in 41⅓ innings but was recently removed from his closer's role in San Diego after blowing saves in each of his last two outings.

“I think we’ve got a really talented staff and talented group of pitching coaches at the major league level, that have proven they can help a lot of different types of pitchers succeed," said Stearns. "In Taylor’s case, a lot of this was and is reliever volatility that we can see. We think this is a good pitcher who’s going to perform for us.

"And we think our staff will be able to get the best out of him.”

Since breaking into the majors in 2016 with the Minnesota Twins, Rogers is 18-23 with a 3.29 ERA and WHIP of 1.15 in 361 appearances -- all of which have come in relief. He earned his lone all-star nod last season with the Twins, then was traded to the Padres on April 7 of this season.

He has 78 career saves and is averaging 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings for his career.

Stearns said it will be up to manager Craig Counsell how to determine who will close games moving forward, be it Rogers, setup man Devin Williams or a combination of the two based on matchups.

Lamet, who recently turned 30, is 0-1 with a 9.49 ERA and WHIP of 2.03 in 13 relief appearances for the Padres.

He's battled a multitude of arm injuries over the past two seasons, a big factor in his regression.

His best season came in the pandemic-shortened 2020, when he went 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA and WHIP of .086 in 12 starts — a performance that was good enough to earn him a fourth-place finish in the balloting for the National League Cy Young Award.

He throws a sinker that still averages 95.6 mph along with a four-seamer and slider; the key will be keeping him healthy.

"For now, we'll look at him as a bullpen pitcher," Stearns said. "This is a player with a robust injury history, but he is pitching healthy at the moment."

While this indeed qualifies as a blockbuster move, there is a possibility the Brewers will make another deal or two — perhaps with an eye toward adding a hitter.

“I would say we’re always looking to improve and we are very active on the phones right now," Stearns said. "We have a lot of conversations that are going. It is always difficult to predict what gets over the finish line, but we’ve got a lot going on right now.”

Ruiz, 23, made his major-league debut with the Padres this season, hitting .222 with two runs batted in over 14 games.

His minor-league stat line is much more impressive, however.

In 77 games split between Class AAA El Paso and Class AA San Antonio, Ruiz is hitting .333 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI with an OPS of 1.028 and 60 stolen bases in 69 attempts.

Gasser, 23, was a second-round pick of the Padres last year out of the University of Houston. In 18 starts at advanced Class A Fort Wayne this season, he was 4-9 with a 4.18 ERA and WHIP of 1.26.

He also struck out 115 in 90⅓ innings.

For now, Ruiz will be assigned to Class AAA Nashville and Gasser to Class AA Biloxi.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Milwaukee Brewers trading closer Josh Hader to San Diego Padres