It was the Seattle Mariners’ annual winter luncheon before the team ships off to Spring Training in a few weeks. And while some fun nuggets were dropped, so to was a bomb.
The biggest news coming out of the Mariners luncheon today was that Seattle will be without their best player for all of spring training and a chunk of April. Mitch Haniger is set to have core surgery this week after suffering a setback this winter.
The surgery has a recovery time of 6-8 weeks and Opening Day is 10 weeks from today. Now, in theory, Haniger could be on the Opening Day roster. But in a realistic sense, it remains unlikely. Even if Haniger suffers no additional setbacks and returns in 8 weeks, he would get 1 week of Spring Training and then be expected to compete against big league pitchers. That is a tough sell.
Haniger, who missed nearly 100 games last season with a ruptured testicle and a stiff back as a result of his rehab, was a popular trade candidate this winter. Ultimately, the Mariners never got very far in trade talks and will now almost certainly be forced to wait until this summer to start these talks again.
GM Jerry Dipoto seemed confident that Haniger would return before the end of April. He did not rule out the possibility of Seattle adding a veteran outfielder to serve as a stop-gap this spring but stopped short of calling it a priority.
Seattle will likely enter 2020 with an outfield consisting of Mallex Smith, Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, and Braden Bishop all jostling for playing time. Seattle also has 3 utility men capable of playing in the outfield as Tim Lopes, Dylan Moore, and Dee Gordon all have experience there. So too does Shed Long.
The news is a bummer for fans and Haniger alike. Seattle will use spring training as an opportunity to look at their young options, including top prospects Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic. If Haniger can avoid any further setbacks, he should return sometime around April 20th.
Hopefully, for the sake of the Mariners, Haniger, and their fans, this will be the last of the Haniger injuries for quite some time.