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Examining the wisdom of a Mitch Haniger trade

The LL staff makes their best pro/con arguments

Japan v MLB All Stars - Game 3
that good old dishrag wring
Photo by Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

The Mariners are currently engaged in a restructuring rebuild reimagining remix to Ignition, hot and fresh out the kitchen. While Jerry Dipoto has insisted that he’d have to be “blown away” by a trade in order to move any of his core three of young productive players in Edwin Diaz, Mitch Haniger, and Marco Gonzales, Jerry Dipoto is also apparently blown away by nineteen-year-old outfielders from cold weather states. Now, this is not to say we don’t as a staff love us some Jarred Kelenic here at the site; rather, to emphasize that every word that comes out of Jerry Dipoto’s mouth should be taken with not a grain, not a box, not even a lick of salt...maybe a dome? Salt domes? Those are a thing, yeah? So sure, Dipoto might have said that he’s listening on Haniger but hasn’t come close to being “blown away” yet, but also, Dipoto has pulled this particular football out from under us before. So let us set aside for a moment the question of “will they trade Haniger” and examine instead: should they?

John: No

If 2021 is still the goal, Mitch is the guy to keep in the fold.

Hey folks, John Trupin here for the Mitch Haniger fan club. You may know my affection for Haniger and his Being The Mariners Best Player over the past two years. I would be personally sad to see Mitch leave, certainly. Not every team that dips out of a competition cycle needs to shed their better players to compete again in the future, however, as we’ve seen most recently with the 2015-18 Braves and Freddie Freeman. Haniger is likely to be one of the best players on the Mariners roster for the next four years, and is a great candidate for an extension as opposed to a deal. In 2021 Haniger will be 30, and by 2022 he’ll be 31, on the wrong end of the aging curve but far from decrepit. His skillset - great plate discipline, above-average power, good hit tool, a great arm, and decent speed, seems well-equipped to age more gracefully than one based more strongly on athleticism. If the Mariners truly get a jaw-dropping deal for Haniger, by all means, go for it. But they have a star in Haniger, the only star remaining in the entire organization that can be claimed with certainty. That star should be around for at least a couple years already within the time frame of when the jewels of their farm system should arrive. It would be a shame to waste that star in the hand for a few in the bush without supreme confidence, and considering Haniger’s pedigree is the peak of what many of the players Dipoto has acquired can hope to become (former top picks/prospects whose shine have come off but need one key adjustment), he is a player worth building around.

Kate: Yes

When everything is wrong, we move along

My grandma always used to say to me, why stand with one foot in a river when you’re already wet? Okay no she didn’t, she used to say you should come to my jazzercise class, but I wish I had the kind of grandma who dispensed such folksy wisdom. Depending on how you feel about prospect rankings (I like ceiling over proximity), the Mariners’ best players are currently actual teenagers. The idea that the team will compete in 2020 after plundering the MLB roster is laughable, and if they do, it will certainly be more by dumb luck than design. Maybe Sheffield and Crawford, both of whom are MLB-adjacent, take another year of development and make a big impact in 2020, but that feels like a low-percentage outcome after trading away the team’s lone frontline starter and the best closer in baseball, along with their All-Star infielders, not to mention one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. Even 2021 is starting to feel like a stretch. Maybe Dipoto finds a way to have his Kelenic and win at the MLB level too, but I just don’t believe it, given the talent the Mariners will have to overcome in their own division, let alone in the AL. Haniger will be in his last year of arbitration in 2022, and there’s too much of a possibility that the team can’t put it together as his clock ticks closer and closer to free agency. Also, at 27-almost-28, there’s a good chance this is Haniger at his ceiling. The return for him would be sizable, along the lines of the Adam Eaton trade, and more importantly, Mitch wouldn’t have to waste his prime years on a bad baseball team. Trading Haniger for some high-upside middle infield prospects would fill in the last gaping holes in the farm system and jumpstart the youth wave coming to Seattle in a few years.

Anders: Yes

Sometimes it lasts in love/But sometimes it hurts instead

I was pretty hesitant on a Mitch Haniger trade until a couple of days ago. Haniger might be my favorite current Mariner, and dealing him would break my heart more than any of these other transactions have. Unfortunately, dealing him makes a lot of sense.

By the most positive estimates, the Mariners won’t be on the rise until 2021. By that point, Haniger will already be 30 and on his second year of arbitration. He’ll be just two years away from free agency, meaning the M’s will have 1-2 years of using him in a potentially competitive window before he gets super expensive. If you assume the young core would need a year or two to come together, you might be waiting until he’s 32 before the Mariners are gunning for a division title.

Given that timetable, it simply makes sense to bolster and possibly accelerate the rebuilding process by maximizing your return for the star outfielder. If there’s a deal out there that can net the Mariners two top-100 prospects and a third guy who’s just on the cusp, I think you take that.

Tim: No

I mean, holy crap, did you see that Jean Segura trade?

In seriousness, I’ve gone back and forth on this. This morning I was a yes. After the Segura trade, and after hearing Jerry’s vision for what this roster is, I’m not sure if I think it will work and I’m not sure the path is not too narrow. That said, the path is what it is, and if you intend to be mediocre in 2019, better in 2020, and good in 2021, well, Mitch Haniger absolutely matches that timeline. In fact, he’s probably fairly crucial to it. As the Mariners’ undisputed best position player, he can give them leadership that will be necessary as players like Bruce and Santana shuffle through, and still provide a heck of a lot of value in right field in the upcoming years of contention. As the Mariners’ farm slides from the cellar into the living room before ascending into the heavens (fingers crossed!), it should, if it all works, be able to provide replacements for Mitch if and when he leaves in free agency. Regardless, however, for the plan to work, Mitch Haniger should be in Seattle.

Eric: Yes

Mitch =/= Jean

Solid point by Tim above me here, but hopefully HOPEFULLY if Dipoto were to move Haniger, he’d work a deal more like the one with the Mets and Yankees where the Mariners end up with a top 50 prospect and like 2 top 100-200 guys or so. If Mitch gets moved for major league talent that will be wasted during the next several seasons of purposeful tanking(?), then that’s a waste. Sell Mitch to build the future, Jerry. No half-measures, no more fucking Jay Bruces and Carlos Santanas. More Jarred Kelenics, please and thank you.

Grant: No

Given Dipoto’s playoff window, Haniger is much more than simple window dressing

The Seattle Mariners are not going to make the playoffs in 2019. Okay, sure, they have a full season to play out, and lots could happen between now and then (namely, double agent Shohei Ohtani convinces Mike Trout to sit the season out to protest minor league conditions, the Athletics fall back to Earth, and the Houston Astros elect to stop playing baseball). But given that the M’s will likely enter next season without five of their top seven fWAR leaders in 2018, it seems highly unlikely.

Then again, the rebuild being instituted by Jerry Dipoto isn’t designed to tear things all the way down. Recent acquisitions Mallex Smith and J.P. Crawford figure to start in the regular lineup for much of 2019, and new top prospect Justus Sheffield will likely make his way up from Tacoma sooner rather than later. The payroll flexibility being created by recent trades should help Dipoto work around the edges and sign valuable pieces in the years to come. The Mariners certainly don’t view 2020 as unreasonable, and 2021 is their target goal to make the playoffs, a mere two decades after their last appearance.

Trading Mitch Haniger, therefore, would go against that entire methodology. He’s a hugely valuable player who will be under contract in 2020...and 2021...and 2022. He’s the kind of piece that you hope one of your prospects would turn into. If you deal him away now, you’re unalterably shifting your playoff window by at least a year, and you’re doing so because you hope your player development machine can churn out a success story that, best-case scenario, matches the guy you traded away. That doesn’t seem like enough upside for me. I’ll go this far: I think it’s more likely that the next Mitch Haniger press release is to announce a contract extension than his departure.

Ben: Yes

It feels so wrong, but it could be so Wright

But I don’t want them to. Very rarely do I ever put my heart’s desire before what I know is the correct baseball move for this team, but I have to put my foot down here. Haniger is relatively young, and could in theory be an all-star caliber veteran contributor on the 2020 and 2021 Mariners, which would be his age 28 and 29 seasons. He could also fetch the Mariners the pitching prospect with bonafide ace upside, something the system still lacks after acquiring a bevy of potential mid-rotation arms over the last six months. The Braves in particular match up well for a Haniger deal, and are one of few organizations with pitching prospects that have both relatively certain ace-upside and the luxury of being able to part with such prospects due to an overcrowded rotation at the big league level. It’d be an extremely difficult pill to swallow for Jerry to ship out the prized jewel of his 60-something trades he’s made since taking the helm as the Mariners’ GM, but the potential return on a guy who is at absolutely peak value (as long as he isn’t packaged with a bad contract…) is too tempting to pass up. Especially if it leads to Kyle Wright in a Mariners uniform *heart eyes emoji*.

Enough from us. What do you think?


Should the Mariners trade Mitch Haniger?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Yes. Strike while the iron is hot and commit to truly rebuilding the farm system.
    (798 votes)
  • 29%
    No. Keep him to lead the next competitive team.
    (573 votes)
  • 29%
    Not now, but trade him in the near future if it looks like the rebuild is stalling, or if another team gets desperate at the trade deadline.
    (581 votes)
1952 votes total Vote Now