BROCK AND SALK

What should we make of 3 struggling Mariners additions?

May 23, 2024, 2:45 PM

Seattle Mariners Mitch Garver...

Mitch Garver of the Seattle Mariners hits a walk-off home run during a 2024 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

One look at the Seattle Mariners’ offensive numbers, especially without the context of the team’s superb pitching, would make many wonder how the M’s could be 27-24 two months into the season, ahead of the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers for first place in the American League West.

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One of the major contributors to the lack of offensive production has been the struggles of a trio of veteran offseason acquisitions – second baseman Jorge Polanco, outfielder Mitch Haniger and designated hitter Mitch Garver – that the team is relying upon to bolster its offense. Of those players, only Haniger (.214) is hitting above the Mendoza Line.

The struggles of those three players, all of whom are in their 30s, has led some to ponder whether they’re past their prime. Mike Salk asked ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan if Seattle’s struggling additions have reached that point during Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday.

Let’s look at what Passan had to say about each player.

Seattle Mariners RF Mitch Haniger

Haniger was one of the Mariners’ hottest hitters through the first three weeks of the season, but he’s cooled down considerably since posting a .300 batting average and .882 OPS through April 16. Haniger is now batting just .214 with a .634 OPS, and his defense has been amongst the worst of MLB right fielders in outs above average. His minus-5 outs above average in right field are tied for third worst among qualified defenders, per Statcast.

The 33 year old has played at an All-Star level when healthy in the past. Haniger earned an All-Star nod when he slugged 26 home runs with an .859 OPS in 2018, and he mashed a career-high 39 home runs in Seattle’s 90-win 2021 season. However, those are the only two big league campaigns Haniger has played in at least 100 games.

“He’s someone who’s been injured a lot, and when your body has been through a lot and you’re getting toward your mid-30s, that can be trying and that can be troublesome,” Passan said.

DH Mitch Garver

Perhaps the most perplexing of the early struggles have been those of Garver, who was touted as a great hitter who just hasn’t been able to stay healthy while playing catcher. Garver has just one 100-game season under his belt, but he’s been plenty productive when available in his career.

In his 87 games for Texas last season. Garver produced a .270/.370/.500 slash line for an .870 OPS with 19 home runs and a 137 OPS+. He added three homers and 14 RBIs in 14 playoff games. He also hit 31 home runs in 93 games in 2019.

In 42 games with the Mariners, though, the 33 year old is hitting just .184 with a .627 OPS.

“I don’t get how he can go from, in people’s minds, slugging like .500 last year and being one of the best hitters on the championship-winning team to being washed over night,” Passan said. “Sorry, I don’t think you could look at Mitch Garver and reasonably expect him to have struggled the way that he has this year.”

2B Jorge Polanco

Polanco, who was removed from a game with hamstring tightness on May 13 and didn’t return to action until Wednesday, is hitting just .192 with a .599 OPS in 43 games, and like the two other players above, injury issues have led to inconsistencies throughout his career. However, Polanco is younger at 30. One of the more alarming signs for Polanco this year is his 31.4% strikeout rate, which is nearly 13% above his career average.

“In the case of Polanco, it hasn’t been the best sort of trajectory,” Passan said. “It’s kind of been like an on-and-off thing with him. One year he’s really good, the next year not so much. (He) hasn’t been terribly consistent, but to just crater like this, I was not expecting that either – not at 30 years old. It’s one thing when a guy is like 33, 34, a little longer in the tooth there. Is Luke Raley close to being washed? He’s 29. Is Josh Rojas? He’s 30. It’s very easy to point to the guys who are struggling and say ‘He’s washed.’ No, I don’t think that that’s the case.”

Listen to the full conversation at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan joins Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk every Tuesday. 

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