In between games of today’s doubleheader with the Angels, the Mariners reinstated outfielder Mitch Haniger from the 60-day injured list. Abraham Toro was optioned to Triple-A in the corresponding move.
Haniger has played in just nine games this year, due to both a two-week stint on the COVID-related IL to begin the season, and then this extended trip on the 60-day IL because of a Grade 2 high ankle sprain. Tonight’s game will mark just the second time Haniger has been able to take the field since April 15. 2022 has been another injury-plagued year for Haniger, who missed over half of the 2019 season and the entire 2020 season due to a ruptured testicle.
Haniger had emerged as a productive bat for the Mariners in 2017-18, and was named to the AL All-Star team in 2018. Returning from his long layoff last year, Haniger basically picked up right where he left off, hitting .253/ .318/.485 with 39 home runs over 691 plate appearances and 157 games in 2021.
A healthy and in-form Haniger is an enormous boost to the Mariners’ chances of finally returning to the postseason for the first time in 2001. It’s probably safe to assume that he’ll get a few extra DH days to ease back into the lineup, but Haniger’s return as the regular right fielder will move Adam Frazier back into full-time second base work. Julio Rodriguez is still recovering from a wrist injury, but a Seattle outfield featuring Rodriguez and Haniger is a much more daunting challenge for opposing pitchers.
With a little less than two months remaining in the regular season, Haniger will get at least some kind of a platform to post some numbers and add to his market as a free agent this winter. Between his injury history and his age (Haniger will be 32 on Opening Day), the outfielder will need a big finish to give himself a shot at a lucrative multi-year contract. With the qualifying offer now back in play for all free agents, Haniger could be an intriguing candidate to receive and perhaps accept a QO, presuming the Mariners are willing to make what would be a $18MM-$19MM investment in Haniger on a one- annual deal.