Josh Hader's contract increases urgency for Reds' Alexis Diaz extension

How committed are the Reds to keeping Alexis Diaz in Cincinnati?
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Alexis Diaz
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Alexis Diaz / Emilee Chinn/Cincinnati Reds/GettyImages

Baseball fans have watched starting pitchers receive massive contracts this offseason. The Philadelphia Phillies shelled out $172 million to keep Aaron Nola, Yoshinobu Yamamoto received $325 million despite never throwing a pitch in the major leagues, and former Cincinnati Reds starter Sonny Gray signed a three-year, $75 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals.

But the relief market isn't much cheaper. Former Reds' first-round pick Robert Stephenson just signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels, and Josh Hader agreed to a five-year, $95 million contract with the Houston Astros.

Seeing Hader collect such a hefty paycheck just a year after Edwin Diaz signed for $102 million begs the question - how badly do the Reds want to hang on to Alexis Diaz? Cincinnati's best reliever proved last season that the performance from his rookie campaign was no fluke. Is it time for the Reds to look at offering their closer a contract extension?

Josh Hader's contract increases urgency for Reds' Alexis Diaz extension

Let's not go nuts here. With just two major league seasons under his belt, Alexis Diaz isn't going to sniff a contract anywhere close to what Josh Hader just signed. Hader is an established big league closer who has a career-ERA of 2.50 and five All-Star appearances to his name. Hader has converted 86.8-percent of his save opportunities.

But Hader was a big deal during his second major league season. The southpaw was even in the Cy Young conversation in 2018. Don't you think the Milwaukee Brewers wish they'd locked up Hader to a mutually-beneficial contract before it became evident that he was going to test free agency? The Brewers had no choice but to trade their All-Star closer in 2022 to the San Diego Padres.

Though Hader had some struggles in 2022, he returned to the dominant backend option with San Diego last season. The left-hander posted a 1.28 ERA and struck out 85 batters in 56.1 innings of work. Hader is seen as the best reliever in the game today.

Alexis Diaz is one of several Reds players who could be in line for a contract extension

The Cincinnati Reds have spent a lot of money this offseason, but have very little committed beyond next season. Frankie Montas is on a one-year deal, as is Buck Farmer. Emilio Pagán can opt out after the 2024 season, and Nick Martinez has a player-option for 2025. Outside of Jeimer Candelario and Hunter Greene, the Reds have no financial commitments beyond the 2025 season.

Opposing teams came at the Reds hard last winter, inquiring as to the availability of Diaz in a trade. Reds President of Baseball Operations Nick Krall shot them down, and Diaz proved why he was so highly thought of by club executives. Diaz struck out 86 batters in 67.1 innings pitched last season and posted a 3.07 ERA. Diaz converted 92.5-percent of his saves in 2023 and went to the All-Star Game.

The last time the Reds offered a contract extension to a relief pitcher, Cincinnati inked Raisel Iglesias to a three-year, $24 million deal after the 2018 season. Though he had previously signed a seven-year contract in 2014, Iggy's deal contained specific language that allowed him to opt out and enter arbitration if eligible.

Relievers can be fickle, and Cincinnati still maintains four years of team control over Diaz, and the right-hander hasn't even reached arbitration yet. But sooner or later, Diaz is going to become much too expensive for the Reds to keep over the long haul. The Cleveland Guardians wisely locked up their closer Emmanual Clase last winter, perhaps the Reds should do the same with Diaz.