Josh Hader’s offseason has been notably quiet, prompting speculation about his quest to secure the largest free-agent contract for a relief pitcher. This ambition has led some to question why the reliever market, as a whole, has remained sluggish.
An American League executive expressed uncertainty about the delay, debunking earlier theories that Shohei Ohtani’s signing was the cause. Yariel Rodríguez’s potential deal with the Blue Jays added a bit of movement, but whether he functions as a starter or reliever remains unknown.
A National League executive suggested that the Hader situation might be the key to unlocking the stagnant reliever market, stating, “I can’t see any other reason the market is slow for them. Sometimes, these guys at the top can hold up everything.”
Hader continues his search for a suitable deal, and while his chances of surpassing Edwin Díaz’s five-year, $102 million contract seem less likely, the reluctance of many teams to invest heavily in closers like Hader adds intrigue to the outcome.
Other relievers like Stephenson, Neris, and Chapman are indirectly affected by Hader’s negotiations. An AL executive noted, “He’s holding up Stephenson, which is holding up the next guy, and so on.”
Neris has seen increased interest from the Yankees and Rangers, with the Phillies, Cubs, and Astros also seeking bullpen help. With spring training approaching, the reliever market could soon see more activity.
The article also touches on the stagnation in the trade market for starting pitchers. Dylan Cease and Shane Bieber, who are expected to be moved, remain with their teams due to high asking prices. The Marlins have been open to deals involving Jesús Luzardo and Edward Cabrera. However, few starting pitchers are reportedly available, contributing to the slow trade market.
An NL executive suggested that the trade market may not pick up soon as teams focus on securing free-agent deals. Another executive noted that many teams still have funds to spend and might prioritize signing players before considering trades. The availability of notable free agents like Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery may further influence teams’ strategies in the coming weeks.