MLB trade deadline: How Josh Hader trade impacts NL Wild Card race

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How Josh Hader trade affects NL Wild Card race originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Through Monday afternoon, the only major domino on the trade market to fall was starting pitcher Luis Castillo going from the Reds to the Mariners last Friday.

That was until the surprising blockbuster on the eve of the MLB trade deadline that saw the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers send four-time All-Star closer Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres for reliever Taylor Rogers, reliever/starter Dinelson Lamet and prospects Esteury Ruiz and Robert Gasser. The deal was first reported by ESPN.

The Brewers lead the NL Central by three games over the Cardinals but had their reasons to part with Hader, who leads the majors with 29 saves and has a 2.48 career ERA. One of them is Devin Williams, their standout setup man who has a 1.72 ERA since 2020 with 206 strikeouts in 121 innings. The Brewers can confidently move Williams into the closer's role. The other main reason is Hader's salary. He's owed the remainder of his $11 million salary this season and figures to make $15-16 million next year through arbitration.

The Padres, run by ever-aggressive president of baseball operations A.J. Preller, fill a big hole with Hader. They had been using Rogers as their closer and it worked for two months. He had a 0.44 ERA with 17 saves through Memorial Day. But he's allowed 21 runs in 21 innings since and was removed from the role last week. The next man up until the Hader trade was former Phillie Luis Garcia.

Hader has been surprisingly homer-prone this season, allowing seven in 37 appearances after giving up only six in 81 appearances the prior two years. Two of those homers were hit by Phillies in a stunning come-from-behind win on June 7 in Milwaukee. Alec Bohm and Matt Vierling hit solo shots to turn a one-run deficit into a one-run win. Hader had another blow-up outing on July 15 in San Francisco, allowing six runs in one-third of an inning, but 29 of his 37 appearances have been scoreless and he's struck out 59 in 34 innings with the second-lowest walk rate of his career.

The Padres have been viewed as one of the primary suitors for Juan Soto, whose trade market seems to be holding up the entire league's activity. They may still have enough ammo for Soto as they acquired Hader without giving up two of their top young players in shortstop C.J. Abrams and outfield prospect Robert Hassell III.

The Phillies are 1½ games behind the Padres in the NL Wild Card race. San Diego holds the second wild-card and the Phils currently occupy the third and final spot. There's no big difference between the second and third wild-cards in terms of playoff positioning. If the season ended today, the Phillies would play the Brewers and the Padres would play the Braves in Best of 3 series hosted entirely by Milwaukee and Atlanta, the higher seeds. One could argue that third-seeded Milwaukee is a softer opponent than the reigning champs.

The Brewers could also factor into the wild-card race if they slip over the final two months. The difference in the NL Central is just three games and the Brewers and Cardinals meet seven more times. The Phillies own the head-to-head tiebreaker over all three of the Padres, Cardinals and Brewers after winning each season series and that may end up mattering.

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