The Mariners aren’t going to extend a $19.65MM qualifying offer to outfielder Mitch Haniger, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. Jon Morosi of MLB Network had earlier reported that Haniger was unlikely to get a QO.
Haniger has been an interesting borderline QO candidate since he’s been a consistently excellent hitter for years but has struggled to stay healthy for extended stretches. Since coming over from the Diamondbacks in a trade prior to the 2017 season, Haniger has played in five seasons for the Mariners, putting up a wRC+ above 100 in each of them.
He was relatively healthy in 2017, getting into 96 games that year, followed by 157 in 2018. However, he was limited to just 63 contests in 2019 and then missed the 2020 campaign entirely. In 2021, he had a tremendous return, getting into 157 games, hitting 39 home runs and producing an overall batting line of .253/.318/.485 and a 121 wRC+. Unfortunately, the injury bug came for him again in 2022, with Haniger making multiple trips to the IL due to ankle sprains. He was still good when on the field, as he hit .246/.308/.429 for a wRC+ of 113. However, he did that in only 57 games on the year.
That is the story of Haniger at this point. He’s always a good producer when he steps up to the plate, it’s just hard to know how often he’ll be doing it. Extending the qualifying offer would come with risk, since those injuries have helped suppress his arbitration earnings. Haniger gradually pushed his salary up throughout the arb process, getting to $7.75MM here in 2022. If he suddenly had the chance to play for $19.65MM, it would likely be difficult for him to turn it down.
The Mariners are currently projected by Roster Resource to have a 2023 payroll of $132MM. Suddenly adding that $19.65MM figure into the mix would get them pretty close to their franchise record of $158MM, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Haniger could certainly be worth that investment but another injury-marred campaign could hamper the team’s ability to continue competing going forward.
It’s a high-risk, high-reward bet that it seems the Mariners have decided not to make. That means Haniger will now head to the open market to see how other teams value him. Since Haniger’s future contributions are difficult to gauge, it’s possible there will be wide variance in how different teams evaluate him. However, for teams looking to steer clear of QO’d free agents in order to avoid forfeiting draft picks, Haniger could certainly pique their interest.
He will be one of the more interesting names available in the corner outfield market this winter. Aaron Judge is the obvious headliner but the next tier with feature Haniger alongside names like Andrew Benintendi, Joc Pederson, Michael Brantley and Michael Conforto.