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Cubs free agent target: Josh Hader

Should they go for the longtime Cubs tormentor?

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Sometimes in baseball, if you can’t beat him, let him join you.

I am reminded of the long-ago Cubs signing of Richie Hebner. In his years with the Pirates and Phillies, Hebner was a Cub-killer. In his career, Hebner hit .331/.391/.547 with 30 home runs in 185 games against the Cubs, far better than his marks against any other team.

The Cubs signed him as a free agent before the 1984 season. While he was 36 and a part-time player by then, Hebner hit .333/.407/.444 for the Cubs that year, though in only 44 games. An injury forced him out for a couple of months and when he returned in September, all he did was pinch hit, and he had just two plate appearances in the NLCS. He posted much worse numbers for the Cubs in ‘85, then retired.

What does this have to do with Josh Hader? Well, Hader was a long-time Cubs nemesis while with the Brewers. Overall against the Cubs, Hader has posted a 1.93 ERA, 0.814 WHIP and 16 saves (that includes one scoreless inning and one save in 2023 with the Padres). He also had two memorable blown saves vs. the Cubs, more on that later.

In 2022, Hader had a rough year with the Brewers and was even worse after he was traded to San Diego — a 7.31 ERA in 19 appearances. But in 2023, he was back to lights-out with the Padres: a 1.28 ERA and 1.101 WHIP in 61 games. He posted 33 saves in 38 opportunities.

I am writing this article not because I think the Cubs should sign Hader — I don’t. I’m writing it because, obviously, new Cubs manager Craig Counsell is quite familiar with Hader from their days together in Milwaukee and I have to believe he’s at least discussed the possibility with Jed Hoyer.

MLB Trade Rumors suggests Hader will get six years and $110 million in free agency, an AAV of $18.33 million. That’s not that much of a raise over the $14.1 million Hader made in 2023, so I suppose that’s in the realm of possibility. The MLBTR prognosticators say he’s going to sign with the Rangers. Sure, that’s possible, although the Rangers just won the World Series with Jose Leclerc closing for them, and he’s pretty good.

Hader’s two memorable blown saves vs. the Cubs were September 3, 2018, when Anthony Rizzo became the first LH hitter to homer off him that year (the Cubs wound up losing the game, though) and September 12, 2020, when two of the unlikeliest people homered back-to-back off him, Jason Heyward (three-run homer) and Ildemaro Vargas. The latter was one of only four games in Hader’s career where he’s allowed four or more runs.

I wouldn’t sign him because I think the Cubs need to allocate their free-agent money elsewhere, particularly toward starting pitching and an offensive threat. The Cubs aren’t likely going to sign both Shohei Ohtani AND Cody Bellinger, but I believe they can, should and will sign one of those two.

The Cubs have someone who can close games in Adbert Alzolay. They can probably sift through the market of free-agent relievers other than closers to find some setup help for Alzolay.

So I wouldn’t make Hader an offer. Would you?


Josh Hader...

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    ... the Cubs should sign him for the deal proposed by MLB Trade Rumors
    (88 votes)
  • 29%
    ... the Cubs should sign him, but for a different deal in years or dollars or both
    (201 votes)
  • 56%
    ... the Cubs should not sign him
    (388 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (5 votes)
682 votes total Vote Now