It was Josh Hader on the mound as the ball skimmed off Trent Grisham's glove in the eighth inning of the National League Wild Card Game, an uncharacteristic poor performance -- mixed with some bad luck -- that saddled the two-time Trevor Hoffman Award winner with the season-ending loss.
Few thought it might also be his last appearance as a member of the Brewers.
That possibility exists, though, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, who reports the Brewers are making Hader available in trade talks this offseason.
“We listen on a wide variety of players throughout the offseason. A lot of players get discussed,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said when asked by Rosenthal about Hader's rumored availability.
On paper, the move -- even the act of listening on Hader -- is a strange one for the organization, which was four outs away from its second consecutive National League Division Series appearance before the Grisham error heard 'round the world. And while it was Hader who allowed Juan Soto's game-tying single in the midst of a forgettable outing, the 25-year-old southpaw has arguably been the game's best reliever for years.
During the regular season, Hader posted a 2.62 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and struck out 47.8 percent of batters faced in 2019. In many ways he was better last year than he was in 2018, when his dominance opened eyes around the league.
Their motivation, per Rosenthal, could be threefold. The first motivator could be money, with Hader set to earn an estimated $4.6 million in arbitration according to MLBTradeRumors.com. That price tag will continue to go up each year as he continues on through the arbitration process.
The second is Hader's trade value, which, because his contract is still a bargain in the short term and given his dominance over the past three seasons, may never be higher. Tied to that is the third possible reason, per Rosenthal, which is that his past brilliance does not foretell of future effectiveness; in fact, his high usage -- he's logged 204 2/3 innings in 151 appearances over the past two-and-a-half seasons -- may be a driver in the Brewers' willingness to listen on him, Rosenthal posits.
Among possible suitors, Rosenthal notes the Mets are "one to watch," although he doesn't have any intel on actual discussions between the two sides about Hader. To that end, Rosenthal says "this is all speculation" regarding possible scenarios where the Mets make an offer for the reliever.
Even if it is just smoke at this point, it's interesting smoke in what's been a fairly entertaining offseason thus far.
Editor’s Note: Don’t miss out on our HUGE Black Friday deals! Not only will you lock in 2019 prices for our 2020 MLB products, but you can also get NFL, NBA and NHL Season Passes and DFS Toolkits for FREE! Click here to learn more!
Sale Gets Thumbs Up On Elbow Outlook
Chris Sale's season ended early due to elbow inflammation.
After a visit with Dr. James Andrews last week, the Red Sox are hopeful it won't necessitate a late start to next season as well.
Sale saw the renowned surgeon prior to Thanksgiving for a follow-up appointment after Andrews administered a PRP injection in Sale's left elbow in August, WEEI reported Sunday. At last week's meeting, Andrews gave Sale the go-ahead to begin a throwing program.
The green light means Sale has a good shot at being ready for spring training. The 30-year-old southpaw went a disappointing 6-11 with a 4.40 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 25 starts in 2019 before shutting it down in mid-August with inflammation in his left elbow.
A healthy Sale is one of the game's best pitchers, as evidenced by his 3.03 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 30.7 percent strikeout percentage for his career. Amazingly, Sale has never won a Cy Young Award for his efforts but has been top-6 in the voting seven times.
Early returns suggest Sale may be a slight bargain at the draft table next spring due to the uncertainty about his health, with NFBC ADP ranking him as the 11th pitcher off the board in the 15 drafts that have been completed since the start of November. That's behind guys like Mike Clevinger, Jack Flaherty and Shane Bieber.
This news may push him up draft boards, but Sale's price next spring will be worth watching, especially if he looks strong in spring. He could be a value come March.
National League Quick Hits: Patrick Mooney of The Athletic writes the Cubs are in the market for impact starting pitchers but won't be shopping at the top of the market. Mooney says the Cubs don't have the budget space to sign the likes of Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg, Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner or Hyun-Jin Ryu. They will instead target the next tier of available starters including Dallas Keuchel, Rick Porcello and Cole Hamels. The Cubs could also trade starting catcher Willson Contreras for an upgrade on the mound. One especially intriguing name is former Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, whose extreme ground ball tendencies would be well-suited to Wrigley Field. The soon to be 32-year-old didn't sign a contract last season until June and had to settle for a one-year, $13 million pact with the Braves. He will not be attached to draft pick compensation this off-season and should find himself a nice multi-year contract with a contending team. He went 8-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 19 starts in 2019 ... the Phillies are interested in signing free agent reliever Dellin Betances. Betances pitched in just one game for the Yankees in 2019. He missed the bulk of the season with shoulder and lat injuries and didn't make his season debut until September 15th. He suffered a partial tear of his Achilles in that game and missed the rest of the season and the playoffs. He is expected to be ready for spring training. The uncertainty about his health will surely depress his marketability this winter. He has been one of the most elite relievers in baseball throughout his career -- he has a 2.36 career ERA in 358 games and has struck out 621 batters in 381 2/3 innings. If he does sign with the Phillies and proves himself healthy during spring training, he could quickly find himself working the ninth inning and piling up saves. Hector Neris would be his primary competition for the closer's role ... Starling Marte suggested to Hector Gomez of Deportivo Z 101 that he would like to be traded to a contending team this winter. Marte is easily the best trade chip for new Pirates general manager Ben Cherington and seems likely to be dealt away for prospects at some point before the 2020 season gets underway. "They have the power to decide about my future," Marte said of the rebuilding Bucs. "If it was for me I will leave for a team that is ready to compete right now on a World Series and that’s not our case." The 31-year-old outfielder is due $11.5 million next season and carries a $12.5 million club option for 2021. There's known to be interest from the Mets, and Marte told Gomez that it "would be an honor to play with them" ... Dodgers and LHP Scott Alexander avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $875,000 contract. Alexander was projected to earn $1 million by MLBTradeRumors.com, so the deal comes in a bit below that estimate. The 30-year-old southpaw was limited to 28 appearances this past season before forearm and thumb issues ended up forcing him to miss the last four months of the year. In his 17 1/3 innings, Alexander posted a 3.63 ERA and has been a useful reliever in the past. We'll see if he can break camp with the Dodgers bullpen come spring ... Nationals and INF Wilmer Difo avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $1 million contract. MLBTradeRumors.com had projected Difo to earn $1.2 million in his first year of arbitration, so the Nats save a bit of cash and all the potential heartache by bypassing the arbitration process altogether. Difo hit .252/.315/.313 in parts of 43 games with the Nats this past season, appearing at second base, third base and shortstop for the club. With such a negligible salary and the fact that he'll turn 28 shortly after the season starts, Difo will still need to earn his roster spot in spring training despite the guaranteed money.
American League Quick Hits: According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Yankees are one of the teams showing interest in A's reliever Blake Treinen. Rosenthal reported on Tuesday that Oakland is open to trading Treinen this offseason along with infielder Jurickson Profar and catcher Josh Phegley. Treinen was plagued by injuries and messy outings throughout the 2019 campaign and ultimately lost his closer job to Liam Hendriks. The 31-year-old right-hander projects to make around $7.8 million in 2020 via salary arbitration and could be a non-tender candidate if the Athletics are unable to find a taker for him ahead of Monday's non-tender deadline ... Greg Johns of MLB.com believes that the Mariners' decision to lock up Evan White increases the likelihood that they'll trade catcher Omar Narvaez this winter. Jeff Passan of ESPN reported earlier in the week that the Mariners have "shown a desire" to move the hard-hitting catcher, and now it seems like they have a roster crunch that could make it even more likely. Austin Nola -- who spent time behind Daniel Vogelbach at first base in 2019 -- is now freed up to work behind the plate full-time and could form a tandem with Tom Murphy. After a breakout season offensively and under cost-effective team control for three seasons, Narvaez could generate a nice return package for the rebuilding Mariners ... Free agent Justin Bour is signing with the Hanshin Tigers of Japan, according to the team's general manager. It was reported a month ago that Bour and Hanshin were talking. The 31-year-old Bour was a quality bat for the Marlins from 2015-17, but his production fell off in 2018 and he didn't get much of a chance to shake off a bad start with the Angels last season. Overall, he hit .253/.337/.457 with 92 homers in 1,714 major league at-bats ... Former Orioles' right-hander Tayler Scott has signed a contract with the Hiroshima Carp of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball. The 27-year-old hurler appeared in 13 games between the Orioles and Mariners in 2019, compiling a dreadful 14.33 ERA, 2.57 WHIP and 14/11 K/BB ratio across 16 1/3 innings. He was outrighted off of the Orioles' 40-man roster in late October.