Between the games of today’s doubleheader with the Angels, the Mariners outfielder recovered Mitch Haniger off the 60-day injured list. Abraham Toro got an option on Triple-A in the corresponding move.
Haniger has only played nine games this year, due to both a two-week stint on the COVID-related IL to start the season, and then this extended trip on the 60-day IL due to a grade 2 high ankle sprain. Tonight’s game is only Haniger’s second time on the field since April 15. 2022 was another year of high injuries for Haniger, who missed more than half of the 2019 season and the entire 2020 season due to a ruptured testicle.
Haniger had become a prolific bat for the Mariners in 2017-18 and was named to the AL All-Star team in 2018. Returning from his long hiatus last year, Haniger basically picked up where he left off, hitting .253/.318/.485 with 39 home runs over 691 at bats and 157 games in 2021.
A healthy and in shape Haniger is a huge boost to the Mariners’ chances of finally returning to the postseason for the first time in 2001. It’s probably safe to assume he’ll get a few extra DH days to get back into the lineup, but Haniger’s return as the regular rightfielder will move Adam Frazier back to full-time second base work. Julio Rodriguez is still recovering from a wrist injury, but an outfield in Seattle with Rodriguez and Haniger is a much bigger challenge for opposing pitchers.
With just under two months left in the regular season, Haniger will at least get some sort of platform to post some numbers and add to his market as a free agent this winter. Between his injury history and his age (Haniger turns 32 on Opening Day), the outfielder will need a big finish to stand a chance at a lucrative multi-year deal. With the qualifying offer back in play for all free agents, Haniger could be an intriguing candidate to receive and perhaps accept a QO, assuming the Mariners are willing to make an investment of $18-$ 19 million to do in Haniger on a one-year deal.