Over the coming weeks, the Seattle Mariners will be a popular team in trade talks, as they offer a bevy of solid veterans to contending teams, as well as a solid farm system from which to add talent to the 26 man roster. No player will be talked about more in the coming weeks than Mitch Haniger.
The most talked about subject amongst Mariners fans in the coming weeks will be Jarred Kelenic. But after Kelenic, fans will be sharing their opinions on what the team should do with their starting right fielder, Mitch Haniger. Should the team trade one of their leaders and best player? Or should they keep him around for the start of the 2022 season?
There will be no shortage of opinions on this matter, and very few will be absolutely right or absolutely wrong. There is a lot of gray area in this discussion, especially as things stand right now. The Mariners are still hovering around .500, trail in the division by just 3.5 games at the 25% mark, and are starting to recall some of their best prospects, in addition to the return of Marco Gonzales and Keynan Middleton. You could argue that the team is getting better and trading your best bat will only push you further away from your true goal: the playoffs.
On the other hand, Seattle is still a long-shot to make the playoffs and Haniger has a history of injuries that is well documented. In addition, Haniger has just one full season of club control remaining and Seattle’s minor league ranks are flooded with talented young outfielders who will need a place to play in 2022. With Kyle Lewis locked into centerfield, and Kelenic manning LF, this leaves just one open spot for the young bats and Haniger is standing directly in their way.
But the point of this article is not give you the pros and cons of a Haniger. Instead, I want to give you a handful of players that would force me to do something I don’t want to do: pull the trigger on a Mitch Haniger trade today. I think the Mariners would be wise to keep Haniger for the next 6-8 weeks before they seriously shop him and if, and only if, they get a godfather offer, they should trade him. But trading him now, before Kelenic is established and guys like Taylor Trammell and Jake Fraley aren’t quite ready to step in, seems aggressive.
So what type of deal would force my hand and make me feel good enough about the risk to my the 2021 roster to move the red hot Haniger? Here are a few names:
The Mets would never do this. Yes, they need outfield help right now. Yes, they’ve been rather disappointing. And yes, they are in win now mode in the worst ways. But making your second Jarred Kelenic level mistake in 3 years won’t help anybody… except the 2023 Seattle Mariners. PCA is the 2020 first round pick of the Mets and his profile is somewhat similar to Kelenic’s. Both are left-handed hitting bats, with a more prodigious hit tool than power tool at the time they were selected. Crow-Armstrong lacks some of the power upside Kelenic possessed, but makes up for it by being a full tick better than Kelenic defensively. He shows good bat speed and adding power is certainly in the cards. At worse, PCA is a Jake Cave style outfielder who, if he can max out his power grade, might just be Kelenic-esque.
You really can’t have enough depth at catcher. While we’re all excited for Cal Raleigh, catchers fail all the time and if Raleigh does, you’ll need a plan B. Alvarez is an above-average defensive catcher at present with a plus arm. But you’re not trading Haniger for a glove-only catcher. The 19-year-old catcher has shown plus bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline, as well as solid power potential. Alvarez could be a plus defensive catcher capable of hitting .270/.350/.450 and that is always going to be an insanely valuable piece to have
Moving away from the Mets for a second, the Boston Red Sox already have good lineup that could really use an upgrade in left field. In order for me to feel comfortable moving Haniger on May 17th, Boston would likely need to part ways with Jarren Duran, a burner with plus contact skills and fringe average game power. He’s played a lot of second base, but Boston appears to like him in centerfield, though his arm is best suited for left. He turns 25 in September and the power is more gap power at the moment but he has shown an ability to create backspin and has good bat speed, so the home runs may still come. There is some risk here, because if Duran bottom’s out, he’s Sam Haggerty. But if he maxes out, he’s a top of the order base-stealing threat who should be able to handle centerfield, left field, and second base fairly well.
For the final name we’ll look at today, we head to Chicago. The White Sox are playing good baseball but are likely without Eloy Jiminez and Luis Roberts for the rest of the regular season. Haniger is a solid fit for that ballpark and could theoretically slot anywhere within the first five slots with ease. Thompson is a 19-year-old right-handed pitcher who was the White Sox second round pick in 2019. He a good athlete with room to add strength to his frame.
He mostly sits in the low-90’s but he’s touched 96 and with his frame, their is a good chance he can get their more consistently in the near future. His curveball is his best pitch, flashing plus at times. His changeup has also flashed solid-average, giving Thompson 3 solid-offerings to go along with an athletic frame that can still get stronger. He’s a fun arm that is closer to a project than anybody else on the list, but one with a fairly high ceiling as a mid-rotation starter.
Keep in mind: I’m not saying the Mariners should or can get this caliber of player for Haniger. In fact, I’m saying they can’t, which is kind of the point. That’s what a godfather offer is. Think the Austin Nola trade last summer. That’s the type of return I’d want to move Haniger today. Any of the team would have to be fools to part with these prospects for Mitch and lighting doesn’t often strike twice. In 2 months, I’ll be much more receptive to reasonable trade offers for Haniger. But right this moment, he’s likely more valuable to Seattle than anybody else and the team should value him exactly that way.