Giants, Rangers Among Teams Interested In Mitch Haniger

Though a high ankle sprain and a two-week stint on the COVID-related injured list limited Mitch Haniger to only 58 games last season, the outfielder is drawing a lot of attention on the free agent market.  According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Giants and Rangers are two of the clubs looking at the former All-Star.

Haniger hit .246/.308/.429 with 11 homers over 247 plate appearances in 2022, which translated to a solid 113 wRC+.  He hit for a lot (47.2%) of hard contact, and considering how teams increasingly used the shift to limit Haniger’s numbers over the last two seasons, the changing shift rules for 2023 might lead to Haniger better translating those hard-hit balls into base hits.

Due to a ruptured testicle and a torn adductor muscle, Haniger played in just 63 games in 2019 and he missed the 2020 season entirely.  Returning for a full season in 2021, Haniger hit .253/.318/.485 with 39 homers in 691 PA — pretty close to the production the outfielder delivered in his first two seasons with the Mariners in 2017-18.

Between this health history, his lack of a real platform season, and his age (32 in December), Haniger faces an interesting trip in free agency.  Despite all the drawbacks, MLBTR still projected him for a three-year, $39MM deal based on how well Haniger has performed when healthy.  It is possible Haniger might pursue a deal with an opt-out clause after the first season, or perhaps just a straight one-year deal entirely so he can re-enter the market next winter on the heels of what he hopes will be a healthier and more productive 2023 season.  Or, it wouldn’t at all be surprising if Haniger wanted to lock in a multi-year commitment now, given how injuries have already sidetracked his career on multiple occasions.

Beyond just his ability at the plate, Haniger has also generally displayed above-average glovework in right field.  That would make him a particularly good fit with a defensively-conscious team like the Giants, and his right-handed bat would balance out a lefty-heavy outfield mix of Joc Pederson, LaMonte Wade Jr., Mike Yastrzemski, and Luis Gonzalez.  If San Francisco did sign Haniger, the Giants might then dangle one of their other outfielders in trade talks, or perhaps just use Wade more frequently at first base.

The Rangers, of course, are very familiar with Haniger after seeing him as an opponent for so many years in the AL West.  Texas also has a need in the outfield, with Adolis Garcia the only real lock for everyday playing time and Leody Taveras perhaps also favored for regular work in center field.  Haniger could slide into the right field mix and put Garcia in left field, and Haniger could also get some DH at-bats when Brad Miller takes a seat against left-handed pitching.

The Giants and Rangers are expected to be two of the offseason’s most aggressive teams, with San Francisco looking to bounce back after a disappointing 81-81 season and Texas trying to get back to winning baseball after six straight years under the .500 mark.  Both clubs have money to spend, and it’s probably worth noting that Haniger might be a backup plan to Aaron Judge in San Francisco, given how the Giants have been so frequently tied to the Bay Area native on the rumor mill.  If Judge’s asking price gets too high for the Giants’ liking, they could perhaps pursue an alternate route of signing Haniger for right field and then splurging on another top free agent (like one of the major shortstops, or an ace pitcher).  The Rangers are expected to be focusing much of their winter efforts on rotation upgrades, but bolstering the lineup is also on the to-do list.

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