The Red Sox have expressed interest in free agent outfielder Mitch Haniger, reports Jon Morosi of MLB.com (Twitter link). Boston joins the Dodgers, Rangers, Giants, Angels and incumbent Mariners among the clubs known to have checked in with his representatives.
Haniger is one of a handful of mid-tier corner outfielders available in free agency. The outfield market is topped by Aaron Judge and, after a significant gap, Brandon Nimmo. There’s another drop to the third tier, a mix that includes Andrew Benintendi, Jurickson Profar and bounceback types like Cody Bellinger and Michael Conforto alongside Haniger.
While Haniger isn’t in the same boat as Bellinger or Conforto, he’s also looking to rebound from a relatively down year to match pre-2022 heights. He lost a good chunk of this past season with a high ankle sprain. That kept him to 57 contests and 247 plate appearances, in which he hit .246/.308/.429 with 11 home runs. That’s still above-average offensive production once one accounts for the pitcher-friendly nature of Seattle’s T-Mobile Park, but it marked a somewhat disappointing follow-up to a 2021 campaign that saw him land some down-ballot MVP votes. Haniger connected on 39 homers with a .253/.318/.485 line over 157 games that year.
Various injuries have nagged the Cal Poly product throughout his MLB tenure, and he’s only twice exceeded 100 games in a season. When healthy, however, he’s typically provided a strong source of power from the righty batter’s box. Haniger owns a .244/.315/.469 line dating back to the start of 2019, and he’s mashed opposing left-handed pitchers to the tune of a .274/.355/.536 showing. His production against same-handed arms is closer to average, but he’s certainly playable against pitchers of either handedness. He typically rates as a solid defender in the corner outfield but isn’t an option for work in center.
The Red Sox have a fairly clear use for corner outfield help. Jarren Duran hasn’t performed at the major league level the way many had expected after he broke out as a prospect. He’s now 26 years old and owns a career .219/.269/.354 line at the MLB level. Duran hasn’t earned much consistent work against big league pitching and a win-now Boston club would be hard-pressed to rely on him for an everyday role. Alex Verdugo has played well at times but posted overall numbers around league average for the past two seasons. Haniger would be an upgrade on either player, and Boston also has an uncertain DH mix with the free agency of J.D. Martinez.
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