Why the Robbie Ray for Mitch Haniger trade is underrated for the Mariners

What was Seattle's best move this offseason? Many say trading for All Star Jorge Polanco, while others will point to acquiring power hitter Luke Raley. I'm making the case for a dark-horse deal, the Robbie Ray trade.
Mitch Haniger, Mariners Photo Day
Mitch Haniger, Mariners Photo Day / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

While, the aforementioned acquisitions likely improve the Mariners' offense for 2024 and beyond, the Robbie Ray deal is the one that creates financial flexibility for Seattle in 2025 and 2026. When the Mariners originally signed Ray in December 2021 to a 5YR/$115M deal, he had just won the AL Cy Young with Toronto, while leading the league in important categories like innings,
strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP.

Robbie stayed healthy in 2022, making 32 starts for his debut year
with the Mariners. However, we all have the Yordan Alvarez 3-run-HR from the ALDS etched in
our minds. Robbie then had to get Tommy John surgery in May 2023, and won’t pitch until after
this year’s All-Star break, if he pitches at all this season. By dealing Ray to the Giants, Dipoto
cleared $73M in obligations including $25M in both 2025 and 2026.

The Mitch Haniger/Robbie Ray trade was a smart long-term move for the Mariners

Aside from the financial relief, Jerry was able to get Mitch Haniger back in a Mariners uniform. He also agreed with Farhan Zaidi to add Anthony DeSclafani since sent to the Twins in the Polanco
to the deal as a salary dump to offset some of the Robbie Ray salary. San Francisco
sent $6M to Seattle to even out the salaries for this year, making it a cash neutral deal for 2024.

This is a huge win for Seattle since they don’t have to take on salary for this season with their
tight budget, while simultaneously relieving themselves of the $50M due to Ray in 2025 and
2026. The Giants love Ray's front-line starter ceiling, but he’ll be 33 coming off of a Tommy John surgery and it’s essentially a $50M risk (or $35M if Haniger exercises his option).

In Mitch Haniger, the Giants saw an unneeded and oft-injured outfielder, but the Mariners saw a
familiar face and feared power hitter. The question is whether Haniger can stay healthy, as he’s
only played more than 63 games once since his 2018 breakout season. In Mitch’s healthy
season, he played in 157 games and hit 39 homers, earning some MVP votes.

He does have a player option for $15.5M in 2025, but he’s motivated to have a good year and opt out of that deal. If he stays healthy and plays 150 games again, I don’t think the Mariners have to worry
about the player option. Great move by Jerry and Justin Hollander to expand their financial flexibility, especially given John Stanton’s stubbornness and his lack of resource commitment to the franchise.