Reported price tag on All-Star closer Josh Hader could keep the Cubs away

Despite the familiarity with new Cubs manager Craig Counsell, it seems unlikely Chicago will give the left-hander the contract he's looking for this winter.

Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies v San Diego Padres / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages
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Baseball insider and analyst Jim Bowden spoke on the subject of free agent closer Josh Hader's holdup and said that Hader is, "looking for a deal north of Edwin Diaz." This would mean a deal of five years and over $100 million. Diaz is the closer for the Mets who signed a five-year, $102 million deal with an opt-out in 2026 and a club option in 2028.

There once was a time when starting pitchers were getting deals like this, now elite relievers are commanding top-dollar on the open market. Hader, 29, has been linked to the Cubs as a possible target this offseason.

Cubs fans who watched him pitch for the division rival Brewers from 2017-2022 are very familiar with his game. While Adbert Alzolay was overall very effective at the closer spot last year, Hader is the dominant type that teams love to have. The former Brewer and Padre has converted 165 of 190 save opportunities and sports a career 2.50 ERA, 2.73 FIP, 0.944 WHIP 15 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 388.2 innings. His efforts have earned him five All-Star nods and he is a three-time Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award winner.

He pitched to a 1.28 ERA, 2.69 FIP and converted 33 of 38 saves last year in San Diego. This came after his career-worst year in 2022 when he posted a 5.22 ERA and 3.45 FIP between the Brewers and Padres. Combine the fact that the 2022 FIP was still solid by league standards and that he was lights-out again in 2023, it might put some at ease who were wondering if 2022 marked the beginning of the end for the closer.

Cubs have a track record that makes a Josh Hader signing unlikely

Would this type of addition make the back end of the Cubs bullpen insanely better? Assuming he pitches to his career numbers, yes. However, the team's recent track record when it comes to building a bullpen and handing out big contracts to relievers doesn't line up with what Hader's looking for.

The last big reliever deal for the Cubs was Craig Kimbrel back in 2019 when he signed a three-year, $43 deal halfway through the season - and that came under Theo Epstein, not Jed Hoyer. Hoyer has gone with mostly smaller deals with veterans or in-organization arms since taking over in Nov. 2020. Chicago has found success with the likes of Andrew Chafin, Ryan Tepera, David Robertson, Mychal Givens, Scott Effross, Mark Leiter Jr. and Julian Merryweather over the past few years, all while committing little in terms of money and years. Some of them were even brought in on MiLB deals.

The track record really makes one question if the Cubs are willing to pay a reliever huge money. There is always a risk in paying big money to relievers, as they can be fickle. Hader is a case where outside of one lone blip, he has been consistently dominant, but still, there's always risk in a reliever approaching age 30. This is not to say it is not necessarily a risk worth taking, nor an excuse for the Cubs not to spend money, it just seems like it is something they might not be interested in. The real question is if a team ends up giving Hader what he wants, or if he will have to settle for a bit less. Either way, though, he's not going to come cheap.

While nothing is set in stone, and one can never say never until it's over, it feels more likely that a Brent Suter-type move would be more likely for the Cubs than Hader but again time will tell. There could be a surprise move or two this offseason, even if that is currently hard to believe. If they are willing to take a big swing at a reliever, this would be a candidate to do it with.

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