The Seattle Mariners are receiving inquiries about their former All-Star right fielder this winter and the number of teams expected to be in the discussion is sure to be more than last winters talks.
In fact, we already know the Mariners have at least been asked about Haniger’s availability by multiple teams, something that just wasn’t the case last winter. By all accounts, the only team to seriously pursue Mitch Haniger last winter was the Atlanta Braves.
Obviously, the two sides didn’t make a deal and Haniger remained with Seattle for what ended up being his worst MLB season, thanks to an early-season struggle and a gruesome injury. But despite this bad turn of events, or perhaps because of them, Haniger’s market includes more than one team right now.
We cannot say for sure the intensity of these talks. Teams could easily be seeing if a bargain could be had (not likely) or they could be legitimately interested in what the Mariners would want for the 29-year-old outfielder.
We know GM Jerry Dipoto will listen to anything about any player but we also know that he has attached a high asking price to Haniger’s name, rightfully so. While Mitch makes sense for a number of teams, perhaps no team is a more obvious fit for Haniger’s service than the Chicago White Sox.
You see, the White Sox are finally ready to compete for the AL Central crown and their words have already been backed up with actions. Chicago signed All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal to the biggest free-agent contract they’ve ever handed out. They also signed first baseman Jose Abreu to a 3-year extension worth $50 million. Chicago is also likely to pursue Zack Wheeler as well.
With the White Sox poised to be the aggressor this winter, as the Phillies and Mets did last winter, they should attack the position that looks to be the most fragile on their roster: right field. Yes, Chicago could go out and sign Marcel Ozuna or Nick Castellanos and save some prospect capital, but trading for Haniger would allow them to focus their money on the pitching side of things.
The White Sox have one of the better farm systems in the game and should be able to make a compelling offer to the Mariners. While it is highly unlikely Chicago would part with any of Luis Roberts, Michael Kopech, Nick Madrigal, or Andrew Vaughn, they have other prospects who could be interesting names to attract Dipoto’s attention.
Dane Dunning could be a name of interest to Seattle. Last we saw, Dunning had 4 legitimate average or better offerings with above-average command. His best pitch is a heavy sinker, which he rushed up to the plate at 94-96 MPH. Dunning missed all of 2019 recovering from Tommy John surgery, so medicals would be the key there.
If the Mariners are focused on pitching, Jonathan Stiever may also be interesting. Stiever features 2 plus pitches, mid-90s running fastball and a sharp spike curveball. He also throws a solid slider, giving him 3, 55-grade offerings. The changeup is also coming along nicely and his control isn’t an issue, he only walked 27 hitters in 145 innings, while striking out 154.
Steele Walker, a left-handed hitting outfielder with the “control the zone” profile and average or better tools across the board could be of interest, though he is likely limited to left field going forward. Jake Burger, a player linked to the Mariners in his draft year, could also be attractive to Dipoto.
Dipoto may be looking for some Major League experience in any Haniger trade and the White Sox have a few potential fits here. Reynaldo Lopez, a 26-year-old former top prospect, has become an innings eating #4 starter with some upside, throwing more than 180 innings each of the past 2 seasons.
Yolmer Sanchez is a glove-first utility option who isn’t useless at the plate, and Aaron Bummer is a solid, middle innings arm, similar to that of Nick Vincent. So, Chicago has some options here, but the most exciting players in the system are probably off-limits.
But a package of Lopez and Stiever could be more than enough to intrigue Dipoto into shipping his All-Star to the Windy City, helping the White Sox round out their lineup and upgrade their outfield defense.
The White Sox are all in on this off-season, so we can’t rule out anything. But Haniger is a good fit in Chicago and the White Sox have the pieces to get a deal done. The overwhelming odds say Haniger is staying put in Seattle. But if he is dealt, don’t be surprised if it is to the Chicago White Sox.