MLB Rumors: Cubs-Bellinger optimism grows, Astros target star, Cardinals strange trade

  • Cardinals pull off a bizarre, rarely seen type of trade
  • Astros are big-game hunting with a hole now in the bullpen
  • Bellinger returning to the Cubs continues to look optimistic
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MLB Rumors: Astros making late push for Josh Hader

One of the quietest teams in free agency this offseason has seemingly been the Houston Astros. Given the level of success that the organization has enjoyed in recent years, that might've come as a surprise to many fans. However, it seems like the club is now getting on the horse and ready to gallup at a breakneck pace given recent events.

Just recently, veteran reliever Kendall Graveman underwent surgery that will end his 2024 season before it ever begins. And now that could put the Astros in the market for the biggest-named reliever available in free agency, Josh Hader.

Ken Rosenthal and Chandler Rome of The Athletic ($) reported on Thursday that the Astros are putting themselves in the Hader sweepstakes not to just help fill the void left by Graveman, but also to potentially replace or upgrade from their current veteran closer, Ryan Presley:

"Ryan Pressly is one of the best closers in postseason history. But the Houston Astros might want him to share ninth-inning duties or supplant him entirely in 2024.

"The reason: They are trying to sign free agent Josh Hader, who is considered perhaps the best closer in the game."

There are several factors that go into the possibility of the Astros signing Hader. For one, as Rosenthal and Rome noted, Houston losing Graveman now depletes a bullpen that was already losing Hector Neris, Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton, assuming none of those veterans re-sign. That could make shuffling Presley's role and adding a bonafide shutdown closer like Hader more feasible.

In addition to that, Astros owner Jim Crane insinuated after the 2023 trade deadline that the club tried to deal for Hader and starter Blake Snell with the San Diego Padres, but were unsuccessful. So the desire to get Hader to H-Town has seemingly been a longstanding desire for the organization.

But that's where things could get complicated. Rosenthal and Rome were quick to point out that Hader has been seeking a deal that eclipses Edwin Diaz's record-setting five-year, $102 million contract he inked with the Mets -- but the Astros under Crane's ownership have never signed a free agent to a deal worth more than $58.5 million with the only deals over $100 million they've agreed to coming on extensions for current stars.

We'll have to see how seriously Crane and the Astros want to play in the Hader market, but it is certainly worth keeping an eye on given the latest bullpen developments in Houston.