Josh Hader signed with the Astros

HOUSTON — The Astros addressed their biggest offseason need in major fashion on Friday, agreeing to a five-year, $95 million contract with free agent All-Star relief pitcher Josh Hader, pending a medical, a source told's Mark Fainsand. . The team has not officially announced the deal.

Hader, a lefty, returns to an Astros organization where he was the club's minor league pitcher in 2014 before being traded to the Brewers in 2015 to bring Carlos Gomez and Mike Fires to Houston. The deal comes days after the Astros lost veteran reliever Kendall Graveman for the season following right shoulder surgery.

Houston's bullpen was decimated when Hector Nerys, Bill Maton and Rine Stanek hit free agency last year, throwing 185 innings in relief. Adding Hader gives the Astros a potent backfield with Ryan Pressley — who has 90 saves over the past three seasons — and dominant reliever Brian Abreu.

“We think we have a good group that adds a big piece to the back end of our bullpen,” Astros owner Jim Crane told “With Presley and Abreu [and Hader], you have three quality guys, 7-8-9, wherever they play. We think it gives us a good chance to make the playoffs and make another World Series run.

According to Finance, Hader will earn $19 million per season with his new deal, which has no opt-outs or club options. The $95 million total is more than the present-day value of Edwin Diaz's $102 million contract with the Mets, signed last winter, which stood at $93.2 million after deferrals.

MLB's premier left-handed reliever, Hader earned five career NL All-Star nods before hitting the free-agent market for the first time. The 29-year-old did so on a high note, with 2022 proving to be his down year, a variation on a dominant 2023 campaign.

Hader pitched to a 1.28 ERA in 56 1/3 innings and became a star in 2023 for the Padres. He held opposing hitters to a .163 average and just a .224 slugging percentage. While Hader's 36.8% strikeout rate is the lowest since his rookie year in 2017, that K rate is still in the 99th percentile in MLB.

Despite his struggles in 2022, especially after the midseason trade from Milwaukee to San Diego, Hader has been a reliable late-inning option throughout his career. He saved 33 games in 38 attempts for the Padres in 2023, appearing just once all season before the ninth inning. His 61 appearances ranked 74th overall in MLB, and he's used some closers, but Hader has long been one of MLB's most durable relievers. He has pitched 50 or more innings (not counting 2020) in every full season since 2018, and his only stint on the injured list in his career came after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Name one stat metric in which Hader has a good chance of being among MLB's elite. His projected wOBA in 2023 ranks third in MLB, while his projected batting average is second only to Felix Bautista of the Orioles. Hader was also above the 90th percentile in hard-hit rate (97th), barrel rate (92nd), chase rate (92nd) and whiff rate (91st).

Hader struggled with walks, however, allowing a 13.0% walk rate in the fifth percentile in MLB. That bodes well for a 2023 rebound campaign, a year after both Hader's hard hitting and barrel rates went the wrong way. Uncharacteristically tough and plagued by some tough luck, Hader pitched to a 7.31 ERA in 19 games with the Padres in 2022. He finished the 2022 season with an unsightly 5.22 ERA. But after righting the ship in his walk-on year, Hader cemented himself as the jewel of the free-agent reliever class — not to mention one of the youngest relievers on the market.

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