Next week’s Winter Meetings are expected to open the floodgates for some hot stove activity, and among the free agents drawing substantial interest leading up to those meetings is longtime Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger. The 31-year-old (32 next month) has a “robust” market, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, and colleague Buster Olney tweets that there’s a growing belief he’ll be able to secure a three-year contract — perhaps in the vicinity of $15MM per year.
Haniger has, to this point in the offseason, been linked to each of the Red Sox, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Rangers and the Mariners, who are open to adding another outfielder even after acquiring Teoscar Hernandez from the Blue Jays last month. The Halos’ interest, it should be noted, was reported prior to their acquisition of Hunter Renfroe. It seems likely that move probably put an end to their pursuit of Haniger; the Angels also have Mike Trout and Taylor Ward locked into outfield spots and Shohei Ohtani at DH, of course.
Even presuming the Angels are out of the running, that’d leave at least five teams — and quite likely a few more — in the mix for Haniger, who missed substantial time this season due to a high ankle sprain but has generally been an above-average to excellent hitter when healthy enough to take the field. Dating back to 2017, Haniger boasts a .263/.337/.480 batting line — 24% better than league average by measure of wRC+, which weights for his pitcher-friendly home park. Haniger belted 39 home runs in a season as recently as 2021 and is one of the few outfielders on this offseason’s market who can be viewed as a viable 30-homer threat.
Of course, the knock on Haniger has been his ability to remain on the field — or rather, his lack thereof. Haniger’s 2019 season was cut short when he sustained a ruptured testicle after a poorly placed foul ball off his own bat. Just two months later, while rehabbing from the subsequent surgery, Haniger experienced back discomfort and learned that he’d torn an adductor muscle off the bone. The fallout from that second injury snowballed and ultimately saw Haniger require core muscle/hernia surgery and a microdiscectomy operation.
It was one of the more bizarre and also fluky sequences of injuries for any player in recent memory, but the end result was still a 22-month absence from the playing field for Haniger. He returned with that aforementioned 39-homer campaign, however, and has posted a combined .251/.316/.47o slash with 50 homers in 938 trips to the plate since coming back from that nightmarish run of health troubles. Haniger’s once-premium defensive ratings dipped in 2021, but he posted positive marks in both Defensive Runs Saved (3) and Outs Above Average (2) in this year’s small sample of 396 innings.
Heading into the offseason, MLBTR ranked Haniger 20th on our Top 50 Free Agent list, predicting a three-year contract at an annual rate of $13MM. Olney’s report suggests that Haniger’s market could be reaching if not pushing a bit beyond that level. If interest is indeed ramping up to that extent, it stands to reason that Haniger could be one of many free agents to come off the board during next week’s Winter Meetings or shortly thereafter.