A Familiar Face in Right Field Will Be Monumental Piece for Mariners in 2024

Everyone finds their way home eventually, especially one of the franchise's best players. He's back with the Mariners and could be a monumental piece

Division Series - Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners - Game Three
Division Series - Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners - Game Three / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

It has been quite a productive offseason for the Seattle Mariners. The front office brought in a great bat in Mitch Garver, a new middle infielder in Jorge Polanco, and a flame-throwing reliever in Gregory Santos, among other moves. This will be the first time we see any of these players in Mariners colors, but one face will be returning to familiar surroundings.

To ring in the new year, the front office traded Robbie Ray to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Mitch Haniger and Anthony DeSclafani. Haniger had somewhat of a down year in the Bay Area, posting a disappointing slash line of .209/.266/.365 over just 229 plate appearances. Hampered by a fractured right forearm, he never seemed to fully recover and after returning in late August, he posted just a .579 OPS for an already anemic Giants offense.

Mitch Haniger is right where he belongs... home in Seattle

So why should fans be excited about someone who was a below replacement level player last year? Because in just five years with the Mariners, he has been one of the best players on in franchise history. In fact, he ranks 22nd all-time in rWAR accumulated with the franchise at 15.5, above Harold Reynolds and Raúl Ibañez.

By all reports, Haniger is incredibly excited to be back with the team. When asked by Daniel Kramer, Mariners club reporter for MLB, how he felt after receiving a standing ovation in spring training, he said this:

"“I know it's just Spring Training, but it's cool to feel wanted. I've always loved playing in Seattle, and it's always felt like home, so it's a cool feeling to be back.”"

Mitch Haniger

In fact, Haniger has been an endless stream of positive quotes and remarks about the franchise. He was reported as not being upset about not receiving a better offer in free agency and expressed excitement regarding the hitting staff and newly hired offensive coordinator, Brant Brown.

""They know my body really well, and they teach me things that I don't know about myself...Like, 'Hey, this is actually how you prefer to load.' And I'm like, 'Oh, interesting,' and then I try it, and I'm like, 'Oh, you're right. "I think in the past, I used to try to really think about staying tall...And for me and how I move, you don't want to dive completely or lose posture too much. It's more that I need to hinge more and that's the first thing they brought up to me, and ... it cleaned up a lot of stuff.""

Mitch Haniger

A change in approach and fresh pair of eyes may help drive an offensive rebound for Haniger who finished the season at an OPS+ of 73. Across his 2,314 plate appearances with the Mariners, he's put together an OPS of .817, so an average year for him would be a significant bump in offense from the .741 OPS the team got out of Teoscar Hernandez in 2023.

Even in the worst year of his career, he still hit the ball hard, didn't chase too much, and barreled the ball at an above-average rate. With even more time to rest, recover, and improve, Haniger is slated to bring the good vibes back to T-Mobile Park. In a winter marred by negative comments from team executives and former outfielders, his positive presence is undoubtedly what the team needs to reach the postseason once more.