The Mariners and outfielder Mitch Haniger have agreed to a one-year, $3.01MM contract, according to FanSided’s Robert Murray (Twitter link). The deal replicates the agreement made between the two sides last winter heading into Haniger’s first year of arbitration eligibility, which is no surprise given that Haniger missed the entire 2020 season.
Haniger hasn’t played since June 6, 2019, when he suffered a ruptured testicle. While rehabbing from that horrific injury, Haniger then tore an adductor muscle that eventually led to a pair of surgeries (one for his core, the other a discectomy) during the 2019-20 offseason and he never got onto the field last year. However, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto indicated during his end-of-season press conference that Haniger was making good progress in his recovery and was expected to be ready for the start of the 2021 season.
Seattle’s decision to tender Haniger a contract reinforces that optimism in the outfielder’s health, and he will now look to resume what had been a very promising career. Haniger hit .271/.351/.486 with 57 home runs over his first 1376 plate appearances in a Mariners uniform, emerging as Seattle’s breakout star of the memorable November 2016 deal with the Diamondbacks that sent Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to Arizona.
Haniger (who turns 30 in December) is under team control through the 2022 season, so a good performance in 2021 will line him up for a nice raise in third and final year of arbitration eligibility. While the M’s might make some level of a push to reach the playoffs next season, Haniger might still project as a trade chip for the deadline if he regains his old form. Between Kyle Lewis and star prospects Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, and Taylor Trammell, Seattle is loaded with young outfielders, so Haniger could still be expendable. For now, however, the focus is just on getting Haniger fully recovered after all of his health woes over the last 18 months.