The Red Sox are among the most serious suitors for free agent outfielder Mitch Haniger, Jon Morosi of MLB.com reported on Thursday.
Haniger, who turns 32 later this month, hit the open market for the first time earlier this winter after spending the last six years with the Mariners. The right-handed hitter was limited to just 57 games this past season due to a high right ankle sprain he sustained in late April. All told, he batted .246/.308/.429 with eight doubles, 11 home runs, 34 RBIs, 31 runs scored, 20 walks, and 65 strikeouts across 247 trips to the plate in 2022.
The Mariners did not extend a qualifying offer to Haniger in November, meaning the Red Sox could sign him without forfeiting their second- and fifth-highest picks in next year’s draft. The California native is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to receive a three-year deal in the range of $39 million this offseason.
A former first-round pick of the Brewers out of Cal Poly in 2012, Haniger was dealt to the Diamondbacks as part of a package for fellow outfielder Gerardo Parra at the 2014 trade deadline. Haniger broke in with Arizona in August 2016, but was then traded to Seattle with left-hander Zac Curtis and infielder Jean Segura for Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker three months later.
Haniger’s time with the Mariners was marred by injuries. He appeared in just 96 games in 2017 due to a strained right oblique and facial laceration. In 2019, he was limited to 63 games because of a ruptured testicle. He missed the entirety of the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign after undergoing lumbar microdiscectomy surgery on his lower back that February.
When healthy, though, Haniger has proven to be a capable big-league outfielder. He was named an All-Star for the first time and finished 11th in American League MVP voting in 2018 after clubbing 26 homers and collecting 93 RBIs over a career-high 157 games. Last year, he matched that total while mashing 39 home runs and reaching the century mark in runs driven in.
Per Baseball Savant, balls left Haniger’s bat at an average exit velocity of 91.9 mph in 2022. His 47.2 percent hard-hit rate would have ranked 38th among qualified hitters this year while his 11.8 percent barrel rate would have ranked 42nd.
Defensively, Haniger was used exclusively as a right fielder by the Mariners this season. The 6-foot-2, 214-pounder logged 396 innings at the position and posted three defensive runs saved and two outs above average. He also has past experience in left and center field and could almost certainly be used as designated hitter when needed.
After trading Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers last December, the Red Sox received minimal power production from their outfield group in 2022. Boston outfielders this year ranked 13th in the American League in home runs (44), 10th in isolated power (.135), and ninth in slugging percentage (.381), according to FanGraphs.
Haniger would provide the Sox with a power threat from the right side of the plate who could play both corner outfield spots and DH. That role — for the most part — belonged to J.D. Martinez (also a free agent) in recent years, but it does not appear as though chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. are all that interested in a reunion with the veteran slugger.
That being said, the Red Sox are not alone in their apparent pursuit of Haniger. Morosi reports that the Rangers have also been linked with the one-time All-Star while the Angels, Dodgers, and Giants have already checked in with his representatives from Apex Baseball. As the Winter Meetings get underway in San Diego on Sunday, Haniger’s market could heat up.
(Picture of Mitch Haniger: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)