San Diego Padres pitcher Josh Hader had his first uneven outing of 2023 on Tuesday when he allowed two walks, a hit and a run against the New York Mets, but the former Milwaukee Brewers left-hander still locked down the save in a 4-2 win. Allowing anything at all hasn’t been common for the closer; the Mets game snapped a streak of 19 straight scoreless appearances dating to last year and through the playoffs.
It’s also four straight saves in as many appearances for Hader, tying him for the league lead. He’d allowed two hits and a walk in his four previous innings combined this season, striking out a hefty two batters per inning this year, with 10 punchouts in his five frames.
Hader, of course, was the centerpiece of a trade last season that brought reliever Taylor Rogers (now with San Francisco), Dinelson Lamet (now with Colorado) and prospects Robert Gasser and Esteury Ruiz to the Brewers. Ruiz was dealt to Oakland in the offseason in a three-team trade that brought catcher William Contreras and reliever Joel Payamps to Milwaukee, and Gasser opened the season at Class AAA Nashville.
But the lasting impact of the Hader trade was negative for Brewers fans; the team went from NL Central leader to out of the playoffs, and the already-controversial transaction started to look like a turning point, even when Hader struggled for the first month of his tenure in San Diego.
How did Josh Hader fare in last year’s playoffs?
While Milwaukee missed the postseason for the first time in five seasons, Hader’s Padres advanced to the National League championship series against Philadelphia. In that series, Hader made just one appearance in Game 2, striking out all three men that he faced to lock down a save.
But the Phillies won the other four games in the series. His lack of use, particularly in the eighth inning of Game 5 when left-handed hitter Bryce Harper hit a go-ahead two-run homer, became a talking point.
Overall in last year’s playoffs, Hader worked 5⅓ innings, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out 10. He recorded saves in four of his five appearances (the other was a 6-0 win over the Mets).
Hader, who typically works in a structured ninth-inning role, did have one outing of more than one inning (1⅓) in the playoffs.
In Game 5, the Padres were nursing a 3-2 lead when right-handed setup man Robert Suarez gave up a the homer to Harper that launched the Phillies (a team that finished one game better than the Brewers in the regular season) to the World Series. Manager Bob Melvin said he anticipated using Hader for a four-out save in that game, and Hader wasn’t even warmed up when Suarez allowed the homer with nobody out.
How did Hader fare after he was traded to San Diego in the regular season?
Hader never went beyond one inning of work in the regular season after the trade and entered the game in the ninth exclusively except for two appearances in August when the Padres were losing in the eighth.
By now, most Brewers fans know he had a rocky first month in San Diego, allowing 12 earned runs in 5⅔ innings (all the runs allowed were concentrated in three appearances). That was good for a 19.06 ERA, continuing the rocky downslide he’d experienced with the Brewers when he posted a 12.54 ERA in July.
But he turned a corner, notching six saves in his final 11 games of the year (10⅓ innings), with four hits, one earned run, two walks, one hit batsman and 13 strikeouts. That run and one of the walks came in the first outing of the month; he finished September with 10 straight scoreless appearances.
San Diego is just slightly larger than Milwaukee but spending far more
Milwaukee ranks as the smallest market in Major League Baseball, though San Diego slots in at 23rd out of the 25 American MLB markets (Chicago, Los Angeles, the Bay Area and New York each have two teams, and Toronto isn’t counted).
Yet, San Diego has gone all in with a payroll in excess of $182 million, ranking third in baseball, while Milwaukee’s $90.5 million payroll ranks 21st of 30 teams. The acquisition of Hader wasn’t even the main entrée of the 2022 trade deadline for the Padres, who dealt a litany of top prospects for Nationals outfielder Juan Soto.
Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio was asked about a comparison with San Diego just before the Brewers home opener this season, and he pointed out that a younger roster like Milwaukee’s naturally won’t have a higher payroll number.
“His goal was to grow the business in that market,” Attanasio said of Padres owner Peter Seidler. “The Chargers (of the NFL) had left, and they were the only game in town. The way they chose to do it was bringing in players, and they’ve certainly grown the market. I hope I’m not talking out of school here, but I think they’re no longer going to be a revenue receiver. You can look at that a lot of different ways. I think they’re probably achieving their goals. Otherwise, I have enough trouble running our own club than looking at other clubs. That was their goal and they seem to have achieved it.
“You can look at where we sit in media revenues. We are 30 out of 30. That’s just a mathematical truth. We punch above our weight with the fan attendance, which I talked about. And we have again this year a record number of new sponsorships. With everything, we’re running our business as well as could be run.”
Attanasio also said there’s always money available for midseason upgrades. Last year’s team, he said, was in conversations to acquire a number of players that would have added significant dollars to the budget, but the trades couldn’t be consummated.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: How has Josh Hader been faring in San Diego since trade from Brewers