Mariners’ Mitch Haniger has a lot riding on the rest of the season

Sep 30, 2022, 10:47 AM

Seattle Mariners Mitch Haniger...

Mitch Haniger celebrates the Mariners' win over Texas on Sept. 28, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of the Mariners re-signing Mitch Haniger for the 2023 season seemed like a no-brainer.

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The 31-year-old Haniger returned on Aug. 6 from a long stay on the injured list for a high-ankle sprain, and he immediately picked up where he left off as one of Seattle’s best hitters. In 22 games in August, he slashed .270/.330/.427 for a .757 OPS with four homers, two doubles and 12 RBIs.

In the 20 games after, however, Haniger fell into a slump, hitting just a .220/.296/.263 slash for a .559 OPS with no homers, four doubles and eight RBIs. He also missed seven days in that stretch with a back injury, though he has rebounded with three multi-hit games in his last four, including a two-homer performance Thursday night.

Haniger is set to be a free agent after this season, and while he’s been a key figure for the team going back to his acquisition in a trade with Arizona prior to the 2017 season, there are questions about whether there will be a place for him with the Mariners in 2023. Further complicating the situation is how much time he’s missed due to injury in his career, as he’s played more than 100 games just twice (157 games in each of 2018 and 2021).

ESPN MLB reporter Jeff Passan shared his thoughts on the Mariners’ impending situation with Haniger on Wednesday with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, indicating that the M’s extending a qualifying offer this offseason to the veteran right fielder is no longer a given due to his recent slump.

“Mitch Haniger, six weeks ago I would have told you he’s getting the qualifying offer. Now I wonder,” Passan said. “Now I wonder if things have changed. … I wish Mitch Haniger had stayed healthy all season because he’s a guy who you want around, and you don’t want to have to convince yourself that you should keep him around. If the qualifying offer is not there, then I do wonder if Mitch Haniger winds up playing somewhere else next year.”

The fact that the Mariners will wrap up the regular season on Oct. 5 is something host Mike Salk said probably works against Haniger.

“It’s a bummer, but you’re right – he’s a streaky enough player that when he goes through these bad streaks, you think that something else will be on the other side of it,” Salk said to Passan. “I just hope he has enough time left in the season to get to the other side because if he could get hot here in the next week, he’s absolutely the kind of player that could carry them into whatever lays beyond.”

And that’s why the final week of the season and then the playoffs will be so crucial for Haniger’s future. At the very least he’s been moving in the right direction in the last week.

“By the way, all it takes is a hot October, too,” Passan said. “Mitch Haniger has a good October, then I don’t think Seattle – the city – will allow him to leave.”

You can listen to the full conversation with Passan at this link or in the player below.

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Mariners’ Mitch Haniger has a lot riding on the rest of the season