In baseball, one of the things we look for to establish cost on the open market are comparisons, or “comps”. If Player X is worth this, player X+1 is worth this. For the Mariners best remaining trade piece, the comp comes from 2016.
Of course, the Mariners best remaining trade piece left is Mitch Haniger. At 28-years-old (in 5 days) with 4 years of club control coming off a Top 10 MVP caliber, 6 win season, finding comps for a Haniger trade isn’t easy. Players like this rarely come on the market.
Thankfully for us, we don’t have to look that far back to find a comparison that works reasonably well for Haniger. In the winter of 2016, the Chicago White Sox shipped off then 27-year-old OF Adam Eaton off to the Washington Nationals. Eaton had 5-years of club control remaining, thanks to team friendly extension signed in 2015, but was also coming off a 6 win season, like Haniger.
Like Haniger, Eaton was a solid defender who could play CF in a pinch but was best suited for a corner spot. Eaton was a solid base-runner, an on-base machine, and had some pop in his bat. Haniger isn’t quite the OBP guy as Eaton was, but has significantly more power.
In 2016, Eaton slashed .284/.364/.411. This season, Mitch Haniger slashed .285/.366/.493. Eaton was a year younger and had 1 more year of club control left than Haniger does, but the comparison seems more than fair.
But with this comp figured out, it obviously begs the question: what was Adam Eaton traded for? On December 7th of 2016, the Washington Nationals sent Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning, and Reynaldo Lopez to the White Sox for Eaton.
If you are a prospect buff, you know those are 3 significant prospect names at the time. In fact, Giolito ended 2016 as MLB Pipeline’s #3 overall prospect. Lopez was #38 overall and Dunning was the first round pick of the Nationals in that year’s draft.
The trio of prospects was ranked numbers 1, 3, and 6 inside the Nationals system when they were traded. So for Mitch Haniger, the Mariners should easily expect a similar package. But what does that look like for some of the teams rumored to be interested in Haniger?
Let’s start with the most obvious fit for Haniger, the Atlanta Braves. Using Eaton as a guide, the Braves offer would need to be in the neighborhood of Mike Soroka, Ian Anderson, and Cristian Pache, their number 1,3, and 6 prospects (ranked 20, 34, and 68th on MLB Pipeline respectively).
For the White Sox, that would be Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, and Dane Dunning. Interestingly, Jiminez is pipeline’s #3 overall prospect, same as Giolito when he was traded. But Cease and Dunning are a little bit better than Lopez and 2016 Dunning as well. But demanding Luis Roberts or Nick Madrigal when the White Sox balk at Jimenez is totally justifiable.
The Phillies would have to part with Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina, and Mickey Moniak to reach that comp, while the St. Louis Cardinals would have to part with Alex Reyes, Dakota Hudson, and Randy Arozarena.
Of course, the Mariners aren’t going to get the exact same package as the White Sox did for Eaton. But the comp sets a baseline for two clubs to work off of. It helps set the market, as would a Bryce Harper signing as well.
But the Mariners and GM Jerry Dipoto have made it perfectly clear that they need to be blown away by a trade proposal to move Haniger. They are open to keeping him around as a building block player, and won’t just give him away.
For Dipoto, any talks should start with an Adam Eaton package, which may be what he has in mind. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times said the Mariners want at least 2, “Top 100” type of prospects, and some significant pieces. 1 of the Top 100 types needed to be a pitcher as well.
That’s exactly what Dipoto should demand because that is exactly what Adam Eaton fetched the White Sox. Will they get it? Maybe not. But any discussion for Mitch Haniger should start at the Eaton level. At least, that is what the law of comps says.