What If… The Mariners Do Not Extend Mitch Haniger?
The Seattle Mariners outfield has consistently been a topic of discussion when you think about position groups that are needing an upgrade. Over the last few seasons, the Mariners have employed a wide variety of players in the outfield with minimal consistency. Specifically, the Mariners have not had a consistent LF, CF, or RF. From the Mallex Smith and Dee Gordon experiments to the Jose Marmolejos and Dylan Moore experience in LF, the Mariners just have not put out the best quality of outfielders. But then there is Mitch Haniger.
Finally healthy after going through a myriad of health concerns, he stepped up in a big way last season after being out of the game for a considerable amount of time and has given every reason for the Mariners to extend him.
With Mitch Haniger you know what you are going to get: decent fielding and above-average hitting. His consistency throughout last season is seemingly enough to warrant an extension at the very least. But as we all know, an extension has not been put on the table by the Mariners front office. With that, it begs me to wonder…
What If The Mariners Do Not Extend Mitch Haniger?
One of the greatest parts about writing for FanSided is that I can insert my opinion at any time because it can potentially be the start of a great discussion. Let’s start with what I think is obvious: I fully believe that not extending Mitch Haniger would be a mistake.
Specifically due to the fact he is a leader in the clubhouse (especially now that Seager has retired). Haniger will be one of the guys to step up and lead this new wave of Mariners baseball. But, for the sake of the hypothetical, I will be looking at the different options the Mariners have after choosing to let Mitch Haniger walk when he is a free agent in 2023.
Option 1: The Youth Movement Will Be In Full Swing.
If Jerry Dipoto makes the mistake of not extending or re-signing Haniger, it would signal that he believes that the development of the outfield prospects and other members of the team is to the point where they do not need to retain Haniger. Looking at the farm, you have the obvious players who are on the brink or are on the 40 man roster: Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic, and Julio Rodriguez.
With these three projecting to be the future of the Mariners outfield, it makes it seem like at least 2 out of the 3 spots are locked down moving forward. But, as we have seen with prospects in the past it is not a guarantee that they will turn into contributing MLB players. Kyle Lewis would be the odd man out in this, just due to injuries and the fact that he is projecting to be more of an LF/DH.
Option 2: Free Agency/Trades.
This one is the most likely of the options, mainly because Jerry Dipoto is known as “trader Jerry”. Dipoto could easily tap into the trade market and see what players may be available for the right price. That does require him to shift his trade mindset from wanting to acquire assets to wanting to acquire MLB-ready and proven talent.
For 2023 free agency, Kevin Kiermaier is one option that would make a lot of sense. Kiermaier is someone who could be acquired either in a trade or he could sign with the Mariners in free agency. If there is a season, it will be interesting to see what the Mariners do once the signing freeze is lifted and the current free agents find a place to play for the year.
Overall, It Would Be A Bad Move To Not Extend Haniger.
Mitch Haniger is committed to being part of the team that breaks the 20 plus year playoff drought. He is committed to being a leader both in actions and words. How could you justify not extending a player so committed to the franchise? To me, it is a no-brainer.
Even though he is an average fielder, he is a consistent hitter and can help power a solid lineup. While it is always important to be in the market for an upgrade at any position, I think Haniger has enough years left of average defense to justify bringing him back for another 2-3 years.
Check back next week for the next What-If Wednesday! Hopefully, the lockout will be finished and we will be able to focus on new signings!