Mitch Haniger has been one of the best Mariners players when healthy the last several years. The trade that brought him to Seattle was one of Jerry Dipoto’s best trades as a GM. Now Mitch Haniger is going into the final year of his contract with the Mariners, and some are suggesting that he won’t be extended past the 2022 season. Ryan Divish noted the lack of negotiations between the two sides in a recent article, and CBS reported on Divish’s comments as well.
The right fielder has been a strong offensive force since his time in Seattle, and arguably the team’s offensive MVP of 2021. He hit 39 home runs last year, had 100 RBI, and had a 120 wRC+ last year in a career year in terms of power. He started to hit for more power and gave up some on base and average to do it. Joe Doyle pointed out that his swing got longer and that he started to try to hit more pull side doubles and home runs.
Haniger did not have as good of a batting average last year, .253, compared to his higher career norms around .270-.290. He also is not the defender in right field that he once was, and as he is now 31 years old, he will probably not get better. He is aging and his numbers should start to decline as he gets deeper into his 30s. His injury history doesn’t help, and it probably makes his body seem older than it is really.
Mitch Haniger might not be with the Mariners much longer
Based on the reports that the Mariners have not engaged with Haniger on extension talks, it is highly unlikely that he sticks around for much more than one year. The Mariners should not give him a long-term extension now or next offseason because Haniger will decline and the M’s have the right fielder of the future nearly ready in Julio Rodriguez. Haniger doesn’t really have a place on the team next year and beyond except for as a DH, and paying a lot for an aging DH is not good.
The Mariners outfield is pretty crowded as it is, with Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis, and Julio Rodriguez, all are near ready to be everyday players. There are however question marks with those three players, but by this time next year, all three of those players ideally are solidified as solid players or better. Mitch Haniger does not have a place in that outfield mix, and he should not be extended too late into his 30s.
The only way that Haniger should be around past this season is if he is given the one-year qualifying offer (if it still exists in a new CBA), or given a one-year deal if the Mariners need his bat one more year. They should not beholden themselves to a right-handed DH only for multiple seasons. He is a truly tremendous leader of this team and organization, but the M’s can’t afford to spend too much money on a position that doesn’t have a ton of value.
On the whole, the Mariners are smart for not signing Mitch Haniger to an extension yet. He could prove all the doubters and haters wrong and play good defense and hit for average and hit bombs. That is very unlikely, however, but he could do it. I am certainly rooting for Haniger to help lead the M’s to the playoffs, but he is probably in his last season with the Mariners, and fans should enjoy his right-handed swing for now and hope he leads them to the playoffs.