Cause & intent: How Hader addition raises intriguing implications about Astros big picture

STONE COLD 'STROS

When the Houston Astros announced the signing of Josh Hader, several questions came to mind from fans and media. Does this signing have any impact on contract extensions for Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Kyle Tucker?

Will Hader or Ryan Pressly pitch the ninth inning? And was this contract in direct response to Kendall Graveman having shoulder surgery and being ruled out for the remainder of the season?

Only time will tell with the first question. Those deals will likely be handled on a case by case basis. Hader answered the second question (kind of) at his introductory press conference. He basically said it's all about winning, and he and Pressly are focused on that, not which role they will play in the eight and ninth innings.

As for the third question, only the Astros know for sure, but we feel pretty confident about the answer based on the timeline. The Astros announced the Graveman news on Tuesday, January 16th.

At Hader's presser, it was revealed that the Astros contacted Hader's agent on Tuesday, January 16th, and the deal was agreed upon within 72 hours.

It seems pretty obvious to us that the Astros would have been happy to stay under the luxury tax with Graveman, Abreu, and Pressly handling the leverage innings out of the bullpen.

We believe Rafael Montero's struggles are the reason Graveman was traded for in the first place. You could actually make the argument that the Astros have paid for the Montero deal four times. First, Montero's $34.5 million contract he signed last offseason while the team had no general manager. Second, by trading away a top prospect in Korey Lee to get Graveman. Third, paying Graveman's salary, which includes $8 million for this season in which he won't pitch. And finally fourth, the $95 million deal they had to give Hader to shore up the 'pen.

To be fair, a few days before the Graveman announcement, we did see reports about the Astros having interest in bringing back Hector Neris. But then again, the Astros probably knew Graveman's fate a few days before announcing it publicly.

It seems reasonable to think they kicked the tires on Neris after knowing Graveman was likely done for the year. Then realized if they were going to have to pay $50 million for the 35-year-old Neris, why not go all in and pursue the 29-year-old Hader?

If you're going to have to go over the tax threshold anyway, might as well grab arguably the best closer in baseball.

Plus, we've seen the backend of the bullpen stacked like this once before. It was 2003 with Billy Wagner, Octavio Dotel, and Brad Lidge. Which begs the question, which backend of the bullpen is better? The current iteration or the one from 2003?

Be sure to watch the video above as we take a deep dive into the stats and reveal which 7,8,9 combination is the best in Astros history.

Below are some career stats we considered when making our arguments. Courtesy of BaseballReference.com.


Wagner 2.31 ERA, 27.7 WAR, 7 All-Star appearances, 2.73 FIP, 0.998 WHIP, 11.9 SO9, 422 saves, 16 year career.

Postseason 11.2 innings, 10.03 ERA. Zero championships.


Hader 2.50 ERA, 11.7 WAR, 5 All-Star appearances, 2.73 FIP, 0.944 WHIP, 15 SO9, 165 saves, 7 year career.

Postseason 19.2 innings, 1.37 ERA. Zero championships.


Lidge 3.54 ERA, 7.9 WAR, 2 All-Star appearances, 3.27 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 11.9 SO9, 225 saves, 11 year career.

Postseason 45.1 innings, 2.18 ERA. 1 championship.


Pressly 3.25 ERA, 9.7 WAR, 2 All-Star appearances, 3.17 FIP, 1.144 WHIP, 9.6 SO9, 108 saves, 11 year career.

Postseason 44.2 innings, 2.22 ERA. 1 championship.

Digging deeper: Since becoming the Astros closer in 2020, he has allowed 3 ER in 31 postseason appearances (34 innings). 0 earned runs in 2022 and 2023 combined. He has a shockingly low 0.79 ERA in the postseason since taking over the closer role in 2020.


Dotel 3.78 ERA, 15.2 WAR, 0 All-Star appearances, 3.70 FIP, 1.238 WHIP, 10.8 SO9, 109 saves, 15 year career.

Postseason 23.1 innings, 3.86 ERA. 1 championship.


Abreu 2.60 ERA, 3.2 WAR, 0 All-Star appearances, 3.00 FIP, 1.187 WHIP, 12 SO9, 8 saves, 5 year career.

Postseason 20.1 innings, 2.66 ERA. 1 championship.


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The Astros have yet to make Bregman an offer, but Kyle Tucker said preliminary talks have begun with him. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

Heading into spring training, Astros general manager said the team definitely was going to offer Alex Bregman a contract extension … they’re working on it.

Bregman’s agent Scott Boras said Bregman certainly would be open to discussing an extension with the Astros. For his part, Bregman said he spent the off-season working out like a beast and he’s getting ready for the best season of his career.

And so the waiting game began. Spring training is in full swing and each day the story-hungry media asks, so what’s up with the Astros contract offer for Bregman, who will be a free agent at season’s end if he doesn’t re-up with the Astros?

The media is waiting. Bregman is waiting. You know what Tom Petty said, waiting is the hardest part.

Let me tell you, Godot will show up before the Astros make a public contract offer to Bregman this spring. Public negotiations are a dance, and the Astros are willing to sit this one out.

The Astros kick off their spring training schedule on Saturday against the Washington Nationals in West Palm Beach. Bregman likely will take third base and face live enemy pitching without an extension offer in his pocket.

The Astros’ position is well known. They are loathe to offer long-term contracts, let’s say more than five years, for big money, let’s say $150 million. They’ve stuck to their guns several times in recent years.

Bregman’s position is assumed. Certainly if he does have the best year of his career, he’ll be looking for $200 million-plus over seven or eight years.

Irresistible object vs. immovable force. Lines have been drawn in the sand. Will either side blink?

It’s doubtful. Actually, both sides are in a no-win situation at this stage. If the Astros make it known that they’ve made Bregman an offer, one that’s not even close to his expected market value, the team will appear cheap, insincere and just going through the motions. Fans know this has become sort of the Astros thing.

If it gets out that Bregman turned down the offer, and agent Boras is determined for Bregman to hit free agency, Bregman could appear to be just another mercenary soldier putting salary over team loyalty. This is how you pay Houston back for all our love, Alex?

Of course, the best strategy for both sides would be for Bregman to start the season, see how things go, and get serious about an extension in a few months.

There’s one problem with that – the media isn’t letting this go. It's the unrelenting Topic No. 1 each day on Astros talk. And will continue to be. The team and Bregman may have patience about a contract extension, but those beat writers are tired of waiting.

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