Yankees ‘in play’ for star bullpen arm, but it would be a mistake

mlb: colorado rockies at san diego padres, josh hader, yankees
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

If the New York Yankees are hesitating to give Jordan Montgomery a significant contract, even in the $25 million range, they should be completely out of the race to sign Josh Hader. The former San Diego Padre is coming off an elite season, but according to one MLB insider, he’s looking for a deal north of $100 million over five years.

Jim Bowden of The Athletic suggested that Hader is looking for a deal bigger than that of Edwin Diaz. Offering up $20 million per season for a relief pitcher who hasn’t cracked 60 innings since 2019 seems like a lofty risk.

“(Josh Hader’s) looking for a deal north of Edwin Díaz,” Bowden said. “So it would be five years and over $100 million and so far no club has gone to that ballpark at least as of yet. But the three teams that are in play are the New York Yankees, the Texas Rangers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Yankees are in the Mix

Bowden indicated that the Yankees, Rangers, and Dodgers have all been linked to the 29-year-old relief pitcher, but general manager Brian Cashman needs to think about using that money a bit more efficiently. Hader is coming off of a season where he tossed 56.1 innings, hosting a 1.28 ERA, 13.58 strikeouts per nine, an 88.8% left-on-base rate, and 35.5% ground ball rate.

There’s no debating that he is an elite bullpen piece and would give the Yankees a tremendous closer, but they need to think about how they spend their money and the value they’ve gotten out of low-cost acquisitions over the past few years — they don’t lack bullpen support, they lacking rotation pieces.

The team still has plenty of hope that Clay Holmes and Ian Hamilton will dominate in 2024, but Hader is at another level, and he is undoubtedly going to be paid like it. That being said, you can get most of the way toward signing a starting pitcher like Montgomery at that price point, and the Yankees need an arm who can eat up innings and provide support in the rotation over the next few years.

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Of course, you could argue the Yankees could spend on both Montgomery and Hader, but they need multiple starting arms. After missing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, it is unlikely Hal Steinbrenner will sign off on a major spending spree on players who will have lesser impact.

Yankee fans won’t say no to Hader, obviously, it’s more about allocating money efficiently and choosing the right places to invest. Bringing back Frankie Montas, signing Montgomery, and trading for Shane Bieber may be a more advisable move, reinforcing the rotation with multiple arms and securing adequate depth.

Bowder did indicate the team could go in the direction of a supercharged bullpen several weeks ago, which would suggest Hader is at the top of their wish list, but that all depends on how the starting pitcher market unfolds. Montgomery holds a ton of leverage and teams are likely waiting to see who will bite first.