Milwaukee Brewers bring the Hader-ade, defeat their relief ace in arbitration

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 19: Josh Hader #71 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Miller Park on April 19, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 19: Josh Hader #71 of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Miller Park on April 19, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /
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The Milwaukee Brewers defeated their lights out relief ace  Josh Hader in arbitration. Hader had one of the more unique arbitration cases given modern reliever usage.

The Milwaukee Brewers have defeated star reliever Josh Hader in arbitration. Hader filed for $6.4M in his first trip to arbitration while the Brewers filed at $4.1M. While this represents a significant sum more than the league minimum Hader had been making, his arbitration case has further reaching implications.

Since entering the league in 2017, Hader has been the second best reliever in all of baseball. Hader has pitched 204.2 innings, struck out 45% of hitters, and totaled 5.9 fWAR. The only area Hader lags behind compared to other relievers is in saves because the Brewers often deploy him outside of the 9th inning. Compare Hader’s 49 saves since 2017 to the relievers above him, he’s better than basically all of them.

With his defeat, Hader won’t be able to earn as much in his next arbitration seasons because his salary is the $4.1M figure. Judging by Hader’s words to MLB.com knew it would be difficult to win his case to win.

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"“We definitely knew that we were the underdogs going into it. But it’s something that needs to be put out there: Baseball’s always changing, and we’re at a point now that we’re continuing to change, and I think the system needs to change with that. You can see it in baseball now — a lot of relievers aren’t in certain roles that they once were.”"

Hader does have a point, he is one of the best relievers in baseball but won’t get the best salaries in arbitration because he doesn’t have the saves total. The Players Union has a laundry list of issues to consider in the next CBA negotiations but refining the arbitration process to encompass modern statistics and player usage should be a top priority. It would help the players earn more in the present day while also creating a path for more relievers like Hader in the future.

League wide, Hader’s defeat paves the way for elite relievers without gaudy save totals to continue to be paid less than their actual value (even by arbitration standards). Teams are making the smart decision these days, deploying their best relievers in multi-inning roles and higher leverage positions that aren’t the 9th inning. Since the arbitration process relies heavily on the precedent of previous players and statistics, relief aces without saves are going to continue to be paid less than they are valued.

Teams know how to exploit the arbitration process and Hader’s case proves that fact. Hader is an elite reliever and with him earning a reduced salary this time, his earning power for the next three years goes down. The Milwaukee  Brewers, should they desire to, will be able to market Hader to other teams as an inexpensive ace when teams are paying more than ever for competence in the bullpen.

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Until the arbitration process gets fixed, the Josh Haders of today and tomorrow are going to keep getting screwed.