A quiet Mariners offseason? Volume turns up with Seager, Haniger rumors
The Mariners expected to be relatively quiet this offseason, something general manager Jerry Dipoto was and continues to be up front about. And last week’s trade of Omar Narváez to the Milwaukee Brewers notwithstanding, that’s proven to be true.
Somebody’s trying to turn the volume up, however.
In the span of a few days – coinciding with the MLB Winter Meetings that wrapped up Thursday – the names of Mitch Haniger and Kyle Seager appeared in reports by veteran baseball writers. Haniger was first, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic noted that the Diamondbacks may be interested in re-acquiring the outfielder that they traded to Seattle prior to the 2017 season. Then on Thursday night, longtime MLB insider Ken Rosenthal wrote that Seager could become a viable option for teams looking for a third baseman now that Anthony Rendon is off the market.
What stands out about these reports is that while Dipoto has always been proactive in keeping the hot stove burning, it does not appear that he’s actively searching for trade partners to take Haniger or Seager off his hands. Instead, they are two players who figure in to the Mariners’ plans for 2020 but could be moved if another team shows they will pay a price the Mariners find appetizing enough.
The idea that Haniger would be on somebody’s radar isn’t all that surprising. Sure, he had a very disappointing 2019 season, but a lot of that can be chalked up to missing significant time due to injury. Furthermore, you still have to factor in his 2018 All-Star campaign in which he looked on the brink of superstardom. Oh, and he’s under team control for three more seasons and at this point is still very much a bargain for a starting outfielder who can hit in the middle of a lineup.
What adds further intrigue to Piecoro’s report is that he also mentioned Nomar Mazara as a young outfielder the Diamondbacks may be interested in. Well, Mazara was dealt by the Texas Rangers to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, so if the M’s did want to engage in Haniger trade talks with Arizona, they may suddenly have leverage.
The buzz around Seager is considerably more of a shock than the Haniger rumor. For one, he’s older (32 years old, compared to the 28-year-old Haniger). For two, he’s making some serious money ($19 million in 2020, $18 million in 2021), and his contract features a so-called ‘poison pill’ where a $15 million team option for 2022 becomes a player option in the event that Seager is traded.
Going through Rosenthal’s report, though, it’s easy to understand why Seager may have value now. The biggest is that Rendon, the World Series hero who established himself as a bona fide star in 2019, is off the market after signing a huge deal with the Angels this week. That leaves Josh Donaldson as the lone big-name third baseman left in free agency, and only one team’s going to get him. So clubs looking for third base help are naturally going to start thinking of other options (you may have seen Kris Bryant’s name out there, too), and a one-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner who smacked 23 home runs with a .789 OPS in an injury-shortened 2019 sure fits that bill – especially since he’s on a rebuilding team that’s only getting younger and planning to play all the kids who are ready in 2020.
A year ago, Seager was considered to be about as close to untradeable as it gets. But since Dipoto was able to unload Robinson Canó’s albatross of a contract – and actually get back quite a haul – just months after Canó was suspended for a drug policy violation, ruling anything out is a fool’s errand. That’s especially true when you consider that Rosenthal noted the possibility that Seager could renegotiate his contract if he’s motivated to join a contending team.
The big difference between the Canó trade and the situations with Haniger and Seager is that Dipoto was actively trying to offload Canó. That’s not the case this winter. For a Haniger or Seager trade to happen, the Mariners will need to blown away by an offer.
And in that case, it might get loud.