Passan: Reasons why Mitch Haniger could stay with Mariners

Sep 2, 2022, 11:23 AM
Mariners Haniger...
Seattle Mariners right fielder Mitch Haniger (17) comes home after Seattle Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suarez (28) hits a two-run homer against the Minnesota Twins in the first inning of a baseball game, Friday, April 8, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Nicole Neri)
(AP Photo/Nicole Neri)

The Mariners have most of their key players under club control for the foreseeable future, but one of their best hitters is currently slated to hit the open market once this season ends.

Who could join Mariners when rosters expand for September

That would be slugging right fielder Mitch Haniger, who, after slugging 39 home runs and driving in 100 runs in 2021, hasn’t missed a beat in 2022 despite missing more than three months with an ankle sprain.

Haniger, 31, is slashing .261/.313/.462 this year with seven home runs and 19 RBIs in 30 games. Since being activated from the injured list on Aug. 6, Haniger has slashed .286/.348/.452 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 21 games, and he’s hit safely in 17 of those 21 contests.

Haniger has been incredibly important to the Mariners these last two seasons, so in some ways extending the 2018 All-Star before he hits free agency seems like a no-brainer. But Haniger’s Mariners’ tenure has been plagued by injuries.

Haniger missed nearly half of 2017 after being hit in the face with a fastball, he missed roughly 100 games in 2019 due to a ruptured testicle from a foul ball, and that injury and a few setbacks resulted in him missing the entire shortened 2020 season as well. And in 2022, he missed a few weeks with a bad bout of COVID-19 and then severely injured his ankle in his first game back.

Mike Salk of Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Mike Salk Show thinks that Haniger will ultimately go test free agency and he doesn’t think the Mariners or Haniger necessarily want to do an extension. ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan isn’t so sure.

Mitch Haniger ‘remarkable’ in Mariners return — will it lead to a deal?

“He’d be up for it,” he told Salk Wednesday morning.

Salk asked if Haniger would really be open for signing an extension rather than testing free agency in just a few months.

Passan’s response? “Absolutely.”

Another factor in Haniger’s upcoming offseason is that the Mariners could extend a qualifying offer to the right fielder. That qualifying offer is a one-year deal for 2023 that is expected to be worth roughly $19 million. Haniger, if offered that, could accept that deal or test free agency and sign elsewhere. Should he sign with another team, the Mariners would then be given a compensatory draft pick.

“I think there’s certainly a non-zero chance he would take the qualifying offer,” Passan said.

Why would Haniger think about taking that qualifying offer to stay with the Mariners in 2023?

“Mitch Haniger would be making almost three-times what he’s ever made in a single season (if he accepted it). So there’s that,” Passan said. “But there’s also the acknowledgement that he’s gonna get probably one bite at the apple in free agency … So going out (to free agency) as a 32-year-old position player … the chances of you getting a big long-term deal? They’re not great.”

Additionally, Haniger’s lengthy injury history also lessens the chance he can earn a major payday in free agency this offseason.

“When Mitch Haniger is healthy, he’s a really good baseball player. And when he’s not, it’s just a great frustration to him, to the club, to the fan base, to everyone involved,” Passan said. “Offering a guy like that a long-term deal, it’s a really difficult thing to do, especially coming off of a year in which he wasn’t healthy. If he had stayed healthy this year, I believe Mitch Haniger would get $100 million this winter.”

Listen to the full conversation with Passan at this link or in the player below.

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Passan: Reasons why Mitch Haniger could stay with Mariners