Dodgers Free Agency Rumors: Josh Hader Interest

The Los Angeles Dodgers went into the offseason with a desperate need for starting pitching, and although that’s yet to be addressed, the team made a significant splash by signing Shohei Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million contract.

Under normal circumstances, Ohtani would be at the top of a starting rotation with his two-way prowess. But the 29-year-old won’t pitch during the 2024 season due to still recovering from right elbow surgery.

Seemingly aware of areas on the Dodgers roster that need to be improved, Ohtani’s record-setting contract includes a staggering $680 million in deferred salary. The Dodgers will pay Ohtani $2 million each season throughout the duration of his 10-year deal.

Still having some financial flexibility this offseason, the Dodgers not only are expected to continue pursuing Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but also have interest in signing Josh Hader as well, per Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated:

They are expected to spend that money immediately—and possibly more—as they target free agent pitchers Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Josh Hader, according to a source familiar with their thinking.

The Dodgers being among the teams linked to Yamamoto is certainly warranted when taking into account their need for multiple starting pitchers.

However, potentially doling out a lucrative contract for Hader would be somewhat of a surprise considering the crowded nature of the Dodgers bullpen. Like Ohtani, Hader was among the seven players who rejected the qualifying offer for the 2024 season.

The Baltimore Orioles were said to have interest in the left-hander but wound up signing Craig Kimbrel to a one-year contract with a team option for 2025. Kimbrel is poised to become the Orioles’ closer in light of Félix Bautista missing the entire season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Hader presumably will fare better than Kimbrel and likely sign a multi-year contract as the best relief pitcher available in free agency.

He went 2-3 with a 1.28 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 33 saves in 38 opportunities for the San Diego Padres this past season. Hader has filled a closer role for the Milwaukee Brewers and Padres over the last three years, and it’s entailed not pitching more than one inning in a single appearance since September 2019.

How Josh Hader would fit in Dodgers bullpen

If the Dodgers were to sign Hader, it would free up Evan Phillips to revert back into a fireman role. That conceivably could be shared with Blake Treinen if he manages to get back on track after having right shoulder surgery, and Brusdar Graterol is another high-leverage option.

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