The Brewers defeated ace reliever Josh Hader in their salary arbitration hearing, according to multiple reports (including MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand). Hader will make $4.1 million instead of the $6.4 million figure he filed at. The case appears to continue the precedent that saves are what are heavily valued for relievers in salary arbitration.
That, of course, is heavily outdated thinking. Hader has been one of the most valuable relief pitchers in the game since he first stepped foot in the big leagues. Milwaukee deployed him as a sort of tactical nuke for his first two seasons, throwing him into high-leverage situations regardless of when they arose. He assumed regular closing duties in 2019 and racked up 37 saves, a second consecutive All-Star appearance, and a second NL Reliever of the Year award.
The loss is a substantial one for Hader, as the $6.4 million mark would have been a much higher point for his salary to increase from in the following seasons. It’s also bad news for relievers who will follow in his shoes, who will still have to try to explain why they’re valuable despite not having a small mountain of saves to stand on. The outdated thinking at work in these hearings is something that the players are surely eager to change.
Teams have now won five of the six decided arbitration hearings this winter. The Dodgers’ Pedro Baez is the lone victor. That paltry win rate has to be concerning to the MLBPA.