Josh Hader contract details: Why Houston’s star closer is worth more than Edwin Diaz

The Astros gave Josh Hader a contract unlike they've ever signed before. Here's why he's worth every penny.

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The Astros sent shockwaves through what has been a dull free agency cycle thus far, signing the best reliever in MLB to a deal unlike any they have given out during Jim Crane’s tenure as owner. 

Hader and the Astros agreed on a five-year, $95 million contract. There are no options for either player or team in the deal, and Hader received a full no-trade clause. Barring a totally unforeseen trade to cut cash elsewhere, this will send Houston comfortably beyond the CBT. 

Whether this was the mark of a pivot in the way Crane’s front office operates or a panic move in response to the Kendall Graveman injury, either way, this was atypical of what we’ve seen from Houston. Crane had never given out a free agent contract longer than the four-year deal Josh Reddick inked ahead of the 2017 season, and never a richer one than the $58.5 million José Abreu signed for last offseason. 

Hader’s five-year, $95 million blows both deals out of the water, and also tops Edwin Diaz’ deal, the previous record for a closer. While Diaz' contract is five years, $102 million, it contains $26.5 million in deferred payments to be made until 2042. For luxury tax purposes, his deal was valued at $93.2 million, making Hader the present value champion.

Astros star closerJosh Hader is worth more than Edwin Diaz

While relievers can be notoriously volatile, Hader is worth every penny Houston gave him. He’s the best closer in baseball. For his career, Hader has a 2.50 ERA, and has struck out 15 batters per nine. Hader did walk 4.8 batters per nine last season, but still recorded a 1.10 WHIP because he’s just so impossibly hard to get a hit off of. Since 1901, no pitcher has an opponents' batting average against lower than Hader's .156. 

His 1.28 ERA last year is almost too good to believe. Pairing Hader with Ryan Pressly and Bryan Abreu effectively ends the game after the sixth if the Astros have the lead. 

Ryan Pressly, already an elite closer in his own right, did nothing to earn a demotion. He has performed very well in a setup role before, and while there are likely some discussions new manager Joe Espada will have to guide, assuming Pressly buys in, no team in baseball has a back end of the bullpen close to that of Houston’s. 

Last season, Hader was in the 100th percentile in xBA, 99th in xERA and strikeout rate, 97th in hard hit rate, 92nd in barrel percentage and chase rate, and 91st in whiff rate. 

Hector Neris, Kendall Graveman, Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton were all great in their own right, but none compare to Hader.  Edwin Diaz is great in his own right, but his 2.93 ERA and 1.06 WHIP don't hold up against Hader's career marks.

Josh Hader is the best closer in baseball. The Astros re-established themselves as American League favorites by landing him. They rode a dominant bullpen to a World Series title in 2022. Can they do the same in 2024?

It was an unprecedented deal, but Hader deserved the type of deal Houston had never given out, and he deserved more than Edwin Diaz got. Hader is now the richest reliever in baseball and the Astros once again have the best bullpen in the game. It was a stunner, but it just might be what pushes Houston back over the edge in 2024.

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