Milwaukee Brewers Push On Following Trade Of Star Closer Josh Hader

The initial shock had started to wear off at least a little bit in the Milwaukee Brewers’ clubhouse on Tuesday. But not completely.

A day earlier, the Brewers pulled a surprising trade by dealing All-Star closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres for a four-player package. Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns made the move even though his team leads the National League Central while locked into what figures to be a tight race with the St. Louis Cardinals for the division title.

Devin Williams, Hader’s primary set-up man the last three years, struggled to describe his feelings about the trade. Part of it was because one of his best friends had been dealt. And part of it was because the Brewers had just traded one of their best players while trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 1982.

Manager Craig Counsell certainly understood the delicacy of the situation. He will ask the players to give their all when those same players might be wondering if management and ownership are giving their all.

The Hader trade wasn’t a straight salary dump because the Brewers got good players back from the Padres, including standout left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers and Dinelson Lamet, a talented but oft-injured right-handed starter.

However, there was a financial aspect to the deal. Hader has an $11-million salary this year and is eligible for salary arbitration again this upcoming winter before being able to become a free agent following the 2023 season.

While owner Mark Attanasio has never been shy about spending, Hader was becoming expensive for the Brewers, who play in the smallest market in Major League Baseball.

“I don’t think we should shy away from anybody’s reaction to losing a really important player for the franchise, for losing a really good friend for a lot of people, for losing a great person” Counsell said. “That hurts. It doesn’t feel good.

“We’ve all learned the lesson — the game doesn’t stop for any of us. It goes on and we have a job to do when it’s game time. But I don’t think we should shy away from those feelings we’re having about Josh.”

The Brewers feel they are taking a well-calculated gamble by dealing Hader. They believe Williams and Rogers can combine to capably fill the closer’s role.

Williams was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2020 and has a sparkling 1.94 ERA in his four-year career. He has converted all six save opportunities this season and not allowed a run in his last 30 appearances, which is a franchise record.

Rogers was 28 of 35 in save chances for the Padres this year, though he blew four of his last 10.

“I think Devin is going to play a big role in that,” Counsell said. “I think Rogers can play a big role in that. We’ll be a little more flexible with it, probably using some matchups a little bit more. I think we’ve got good choices down there and very confident we’ll close out games.”

The fans’ confidence may need a bit of restoration. though. The Brewers have been to the World Series only once since the franchise moved from Seattle prior to the 1970 season and have yet to win a title.

And Hader was a popular player as the left-hander had 125 saves, four All-Star Game berths and three Trevor Hoffman Awards as the best reliever in the NL during his six seasons in Milwaukee.

“We all want a World Series,” Counsell said. “The best way to get there, I think we should have learned over the years — David Stearns is a pretty good guy to help us get there. He’s done an incredible job, and you know he’ll continue to do an incredible job. And this doesn’t change the goal to win a World Series.”