Better fit than Haniger for Mariners’ OF may be Brandon Nimmo

Oct 27, 2022, 10:21 AM
Mariners Mets Brandon Nimmo...
Mets OF Brandon Nimmo drops his bat after being walked with the bases loaded on Sept. 17, 2022. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ outfield is going to be a big focus this hot stove season, and with good reason.

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While Julio Rodríguez blossomed into an All-Star center fielder as a rookie in 2022, Seattle really doesn’t have anything else set in the corners around him for 2023. Jesse Winker’s future with the team is uncertain, Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammell have yet to establish themselves at the big league level, and most important is the impending free agency of Mitch Haniger.

While Haniger played in the All-Star Game in 2018 and was the Mariners’ best hitter during a 90-win season in 2021, he has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career and is coming off a disappointing 2022 campaign where injuries were again a problem. Seattle can extend a qualifying offer to Haniger before free agency opens next month, but there’s far from a guarantee he will be back patrolling right field at T-Mobile Park in 2023.

MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi discussed the Mariners’ situation with Haniger during his weekly visit with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Wednesday, and while he does think a qualifying offer could be a good option for both sides, he does wonder if the M’s would be better off going another direction in free agency.

“It’s really hard, especially when you’ve got a player who’s been hampered by injuries, to go out in the open market and come off a 57-game sample in which he hit 11 homers but his slugging percentage dropped – it was actually his lowest as a Mariner,” Morosi said. “… There would be some concerns for me in that regard for Mitch Haniger as a free agent… and I would even say that you’re probably talking about him being behind Brandon Nimmo.”

Nimmo, as Morosi would go on to explain, could be a very interesting option for Seattle if it decides to move on from Haniger. A seven-year veteran with the New York Mets, Nimmo is younger (29 years old, whereas Haniger is 32), a strong defender, a fast runner, and a capable hitter from the left side, which is probably more of a need for the M’s than Haniger’s right-handed bat.

“I think Nimmo is is a really good piece, and honestly, Nimmo might be somebody that the Mariners look at,” Morosi said. “… You could argue that Nimmo might fit this team better than Mitch Haniger would because he gives you that left-handed bat, gives you a little more balance, gives you a ton of on-base (percentage) – he’s been one of the best on-base guys in baseball. And so I think from that standpoint, it’d be a pretty appealing combination to have Nimmo (hitting) one and J-Rod two or vice versa at the top of the lineup. I think he would be a really nice fit, so I would pay a lot of attention to the Nimmo possibility.”

In 2022, Nimmo played a career-high 154 games and posted a .274/.367/.433 slash line for an .800 OPS with 16 home runs, 30 doubles, seven triples and 71 walks. His Baseball Savant page shows a lot of things to like, including a sprint speed in the 84th percentile in baseball, a chase rate in the 90th percentile, and outs above average in the 91st percentile. He also made one of the catches of the year in center field.

Morosi added that the Mariners might have a leg up on swaying Nimmo to join the team because he’s from the Northwest – or at least a neighbor of the Northwest, depending on if you count Wyoming as part of the region. Nimmo is a native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the No. 13 overall pick from 2011 is the highest-ever MLB Draft pick from the state.

“We’ve talked a lot about the Mariners luring free agents, and I would say someone from Wyoming looks at Seattle and thinks it’s around the block,” Morosi said with somewhat of a chuckle. “That’s a nice regional neighbor, if you will… I think (signing Nimmo) is a really nice idea to keep in mind. I really think Nimmo, based on his his youth, relatively speaking, and his health is someone that I would say is a very appealing guy for the Mariners to take a pretty serious look at.”

You can listen to the full conversation with Morosi, which also includes his thoughts on the Mariners potentially going after Aaron Judge and the shortstops in free agency, in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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