Another setback has beset Mitch Haniger, who underwent a second surgery Thursday that will likely extend his recovery and rehabilitation into mid-season. Per Jeff Passan of ESPN, the Mariners outfielder will have his season “significantly delayed”.
Seattle Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger underwent surgery today -- his second procedure in three weeks after a core surgery. His timetable to return is unclear, but his 2020 season will be significantly delayed. Another unfortunate turn for the best player left on the Mariners.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 14, 2020
Haniger confirmed the news as clearly as possible on his Instagram account, potentially woozy from the surgery still himself.
View this post on Instagram
“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition” Ryan Holiday. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••F#*% injuries! 2nd surgery today in the last 3 weeks. Not how I imagined heading into the 2020 season but I’m really excited to start this recovery process and build myself back up. I’ll do whatever it takes to come back even better than I’ve ever been! #mambamode #letsgoMs
Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times suggested the second surgery should keep Haniger out through the month of June. If that’s the case, Haniger will likely hit the 60-day IL. It’s unclear precisely what the second surgery was necessitated by, as Haniger had previously gone under the knife to address a sports hernia in his core. Fortunately, site boss and Not A Doctor But She Blogs One On The Internet, Kate has informed me through some quick research that it’s fairly common to have multiple distinct core injuries thanks to the interlinked nature of the musculature in that area. [Did you know there are 121 different possible combinations of core injuries, each more unpleasant-sounding than the last? Fun google search -Kate]
Update: According to Greg Johns, per a source, the surgery was to repair a herniated disk. Disks are the cushions between vertebrae of the spine; occasionally, the soft nucleus of the disk can slip out (“slipped disk”) through a tear in its rubbery exterior, causing nerve irritation, numbness, and/or weakness. In a diskectomy, the damaged part of the disk is removed; recovery time is listed as between six and eight weeks, and given Haniger’s other surgery, it seems reasonable to expect that to be on the lengthier end of the spectrum.
The extension of the recovery time-frame has minimal implications for Seattle’s contention in 2020 - they can finish in last place without Haniger playing an inning - but it does likely put the kibosh on any thoughts of trading Haniger this July. Such a move wasn’t a high likelihood, but in his final year of pre-arbitration, Haniger was (and is) a player contending teams would be interested to target.
Unfortunately, the 29 year old’s career is beginning to trend the way of his friend and former teammate, A.J. Pollock, whose issues with health repeatedly interrupted brilliant play during his years prior to free agency. Haniger is impacted even more than Pollock, however, who hit free agency just after his 30th birthday, whereas Haniger won’t likely reach it until he turns 32 or 33. These years are immensely important for players under the current system for establishing their value in arbitration, and another setback will keep Haniger’s pay lower than other players of his caliber, assuming he can make it back to full strength.
In the immediate, Jake Fraley, Kyle Lewis, Mallex Smith, and Braden Bishop should expect to see a near-daily rotation of playing time. Minor league free agents Carlos Gonzalez, Jose Marmolejos, Alen Hanson, and Connor Lien should also see increased chances at some big league reps, as will venerable Mariners farmhand Eric Filia and waiver claim Jose Siri. This could even open up more reps for guys like Patrick Wisdom, Tim Lopes, Sam Haggerty, and Dylan Moore, who all have some experience in corner outfield, as well as possibly even Dee Gordon who has been pegged to get some true utility work himself.