The Seattle Mariners will be one of the primary teams to watch in the upcoming 2022 MLB offseason. Whether the Mariners are able to sneak into the final A.L. Wild Card spot this season, or if they fall just short, the team’s approach in the offseason will be the same: add proven veteran pieces to supplement their excellent young core as their window of contention opens.
While Mitch Haniger is certainly a proven veteran piece, the Mariners have an embarrassment of riches in their outfield for the next several years.
Jarred Kelenic and Kyle Lewis are firmly slated in at left and center field next season, and the widespread hope is that superstar prospect Julio Rodriguez will be ready to take the reins in right field at some point during next year’s campaign. To complement those three stars, Seattle also has Jake Fraley and Taylor Trammell, two athletic, sweet-swinging, left-handed outfielders, both of whom would be capable to start the season in right field and/or designated hitter.
Alas, I believe Mitch Haniger will be on the market. He’s been a beloved Mariner since arriving in Seattle via trade in the 2017 offseason, and his impact on the team during their rebuild has been unmatched. The time will never be more right than this offseason for Haniger and the Mariners to experience a mutually beneficial separation.
However, Jerry Dipoto will only move Haniger if the return is one that helps the Mariners in both the short-term and the long-term. Sacrificing one of the team’s best players purely for future talent, or for a one-year “rental”, would be ill-advised for Seattle after showing this season that they can be one of the better teams in the A.L., so ensuring club control for the primary returning piece is imperative.
Here’s the potential trade that I will have my eyes on when we approach the 2022 offseason:
The San Diego Padres have the definition of a “win-now” approach. As one of the few teams who have never won a World Series, and currently stacked with one of the best rosters in baseball, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to bring home a championship. General Manager A.J. Preller has been the champion of that charge, shipping away several promising prospects in the last two years for Snell, Yu Darvish, Mike Clevinger, Austin Nola, and Adam Frazier, just to name a few.
While their lineup doesn’t currently have many holes, the Padres’ outfield will need help next year and there will be a new DH spot to fill.
With outfielder Tommy Pham heading into free agency, Wil Myers will be the primary candidate to alternate between right field and DH for the Padres. However, Myers carries a $20 million contract next season, and Haniger is a superior player who will likely make $9-11 million as an arbitration-eligible player. Haniger and Myers have had similar success with batting average and OPS this season, but Haniger’s 26 home runs and 67 RBIs has blown out Myers’ 15 home runs and 52 RBIs.
As for parting with Blake Snell, the Padres will have star pitcher Mike Clevinger returning from Tommy John surgery next season, which could make Snell available. Snell has been the third-best pitcher on the Padres this season, behind Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish, which is certainly below the expectations San Diego originally had for him. Also, any additional savings on their payroll will be important to Padres ownership when considering their potentially hefty luxury tax bill.
The Mariners have a need for a #1 starter, and will need to replace Mitch Haniger’s right-handed bat in the lineup next year.
Myers is a solid player, but San Diego needs to get out from under his contract and Seattle has the salary cap space to take on his money for a year. The Mariners will be going into next year looking to contend, so I believe they would be willing to pay Myers in exchange for a year of replacing Mitch Haniger’s presence in the middle of the batting order, not only with offensive production but also with veteran leadership.
Snell is a 28-year-old Seattle native, a former A.L. Cy Young Award winner, and under club control through 2023 on a very reasonable contract. While his 4.80 ERA this year hasn’t been impressive, he leads the Padres’ starting pitching staff with 11.5 strikeouts/9 innings; the Mariners’ best pitcher this year has been Chris Flexen, who has 6.1 strikeouts/9 innings. Strikeouts are not the most important statistic for a pitcher, but it is typically a more sustainable attribute for an ace.
In my eyes, this trade is a big win for both parties. San Diego gets out from under two large contracts and brings in an incredible player and person in Mitch Haniger to help sustain their star-laden lineup, and Seattle brings in a true #1 pitcher on a team-friendly contract plus a solid right-handed bat to provide consistency among their young outfield corps.