Passan: What does the future hold for Mariners OF Mitch Haniger?
The Mariners had a fantastic 2021 season in which they won 90 games and finished just short of a playoff berth.
While the pitching and defense were pretty good all year long, the bats as a whole struggled as the Mariners finished last in baseball in batting average and tied for 22nd in runs scored.
Someone who did their part to score and drive in runs, though, was right fielder Mitch Haniger.
Haniger had a fantastic 2021 season, hitting a career-high 39 home runs, driving in a career-high 100 runs and playing in 157 games, which tied his career high.
Haniger’s production was especially critical not just because the Mariners struggled as a team at the plate, but because Haniger had been out since June of 2019 due to various injuries and surgeries and it was unclear how he’d be able to produce after the long layoff.
But Haniger’s future is unclear as he’s not under contract beyond the 2022 season and the Mariners have a number of promising young outfielders both on the MLB roster as well as in the farm system.
Does Haniger want an extension to stay with the Mariners long-term? Do the Mariners want Haniger on the roster long-term? What’s next for the star outfielder?
ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan discussed Haniger’s future during a visit with Mike Salk on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk Show on Thursday.
“That’s a tough one, right?” Passan said. “A really tough one. Because listen, he’s not young, and he’s not somebody who has proven himself capable of going out and consistently playing 150-plus games.”
Haniger turns 31 next week but he’s played in just five MLB seasons. He made his MLB debut at 25 years old in 2016 and since then, he’s played in just two full seasons because of various injuries and surgeries.
But Haniger’s two full seasons have been stellar. In 2018, Haniger was an All-Star and slashed .285/.366/.493 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs while finishing 11th in American League MVP voting.
And, as mentioned, Haniger’s 2021 season was very special, especially in terms of hitting home runs and driving in runs. He finished 20th in MVP voting this past year.
Haniger is also a leader for the Mariners.
“He’s good and an important clubhouse lifeblood,” Passan said. “You’re dealing with somebody who’s a leader and a good person on top of that, and a great player too.”
The 2021 Mariners may have finished two games out of a playoff spot, but they were a very resilient team who had a number of comeback wins, excelled in one-run games and also had a stellar late-season push to contend for a wild-card spot.
Passan thinks Haniger represented that team very well.
“Did he more than anyone kind of epitomize the 2021 Mariners?” Passan asked.
As far as what a long-term deal for Haniger could look like either from the Mariners or another team, Passan shared some thoughts on that as well.
“Mitch Haniger is going to be essentially walking into his age 32 season after next year. Let’s say (the Mariners) do not lock him up this spring and he goes out and has another big year where he stays healthy. What kind of money do you think he can make?” Passan said. “The oft-injured, extremely talented, good clubhouse guy who plays outfield going into his age 32 season does have a comp.”
That comp? Former All-Star outfielder Jayson Werth, who finished in the top-20 of MVP voting four times and starred for the Philadelphia Phillies before signing a lucrative long-term deal with the Washington Nationals.
“Jason Werth got $126 million over seven years from the Washington Nationals, right?” Passan said. “Now, I don’t know that Mitch Haniger is ever going to get that. I just think he’s honestly been hurt too much. But Mitch Haniger last year last year? He was pretty good.”
Listen to the full discussion with Passan at this link or in the player below.