The Cubs need to improve the bullpen in a big way this winter after watching how things broke down during their September swoon. Jed Hoyer could even be open to spending a little more money on that unit than usual, stretching for multiyear deals to give Craig Counsell a relief corps to rival the ones he managed with the Brewers. Put it all together and you could make a case for the pursuit of the market’s top closer.
“Which manager in Major League Baseball knows how to get the best out of Josh Hader?” Jon Morosi asked rhetorically on MLB Network. “Hmm, the guy who now manages just down the road from Milwaukee, where he was so successful for so many years, in Craig Counsell. Yes, they’ve got Alzolay, who pitched quite well during the course of the season.
“But if you’re the Cubs and if you believe you’ve got the makings of a World Series team this year, and/or you believe you want to build out a club that Shohei Ohtani looks at and says, ‘Hey, I wanna play at Wrigley Field,’ signing Josh Hader would make you more of a World Series contender and certainly would improve your status in the Shohei Sweepstakes as well.”
This feels a lot like something Team Hader wanted out there, especially since Morosi connected the Cubs via circumstantial logic after first listing the Rangers and Phillies as being the favorites to land Hader. Just because he’s open to going bigger than one-year deals for reclamation projects doesn’t mean Hoyer is willing to pony up for the largest contract in history for a reliever, which is what Hader is reportedly seeking. Maybe that changes if the pursuits of Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Shōta Imanaga fall through and an elite-level bullpen is needed to offset a middling rotation.
Unlike several other rumors and reports that I believe have a lot more credence, this one is probably more of a leverage play to ensure Hader is able to command nine figures. That said, I don’t think we can completely dismiss the idea of a legitimate connection if Hader’s market comes down or the Cubs miss elsewhere.