Brewers reliever Josh Hader just barely earned Super Two status this offseason, setting him up to take four trips through arbitration instead of three. Hader then filed for a $6.4MM salary – a far cry from the $4.1MM the Brewers proposed. The decision on the case came down Friday, and the Brewers emerged as the victors. Even in defeat, Hader’s now set to make significantly more than he’d have hauled in had he not gotten to arbitration this early. But this loss will negatively affect Hader’s earning power in future years, and he’d like to see a change in the system.
Speaking on Friday, the 25-year-old left-hander said (via Adam McCalvy of MLB.com): “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Hader added that the current arbitration setup is “outdated” with respect to reliever usage, and it’s difficult to argue against that. The present system puts a great deal of emphasis on racking up saves and holds, which doesn’t seem fair to dominant relievers who aren’t just used in those spots (Hader, for example). Hader does have 49 saves and 39 holds since he debuted in 2017 (including 37 and six in those respective categories in 2019), but the Brewers utilized him in various high-leverage situations in his first two seasons, thereby hurting his counting stats. That tactic, while perhaps wise on the team’s part, didn’t do Hader any favors in his initial arbitration hearing.
No matter how they’ve used him, Hader has been lights-out. A two-time All-Star and a back-to-back NL Reliever of the Year winner, Hader owns a superb 2.42 ERA/2.74 FIP with 15.35 K/9 and 3.17 BB/9 through 204 career 2/3 innings. Furthermore, he has regularly recorded more than three outs per appearance. Given Hader’s excellence to date and Friday’s results, he’s not unreasonable to contend that the arbitration process is behind the times for those in his position.