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Sports >  Seattle Mariners

Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger earns AL player of the week, prompting more trade debate

UPDATED: Tue., July 20, 2021

Seattle Mariners’ Mitch Haniger is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Friday, July 16, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif.  (Mark J. Terrill)
Seattle Mariners’ Mitch Haniger is congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels Friday, July 16, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

For Mitch Haniger, three days of work yielded production that many players would love to have over seven days. And his performance in the opening series out of the All-Star break earned the Seattle Mariners outfielder a fancy watch.

Monday, Haniger was named the player of the week in the American League for his efforts against the Angels.

Over the three-game series at Angel Stadium, Haniger posted a .455/.533/1.092 slash line, tallying five hits in 15 plate appearances, including a double and two home runs. Haniger scored seven runs and drove in six runs while working a pair of walks and getting hit by a pair of pitches. He didn’t strike out in the series.

It’s his first time receiving the weekly honor. He’s the first Mariners player to be named AL player of the week since Tim Beckham picked up the award for the opening week of the 2019 season.

Haniger will take a nine-game hitting streak into the two-game series starting Tuesday at Coors Field in Denver against the Rockies. Over those nine games, he has a .394/.475/.788 slash line with a double, four homers, 11 RBI and 12 runs scored.

After missing most of the 2019 season and all of the shortened 2020 season due to multiple surgeries for a variety of injuries, all stemming from fouling a pitch into his groin, the 30-year-old Haniger is having a tremendous comeback season.

He’s played in 89 games this season, posting a .266/.322/.509 slash line with 17 doubles, a triple, 22 homers, 58 RBI, 65 runs scored, 26 walks and 88 strikeouts. He leads the Mariners in homers, RBI, slugging percentage and runs scored. In terms of other analytics, Haniger leads the Mariners with a 2.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from Fangraphs and a +129 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) of players with more than 150 plate appearances.

He’s essentially been one of the three best players the entire season on an inexperienced Mariners team that has vastly exceeded expectations. Seattle is 50-44 and in contention for a wild-card spot. Haniger helped carry the team’s offensive production early in the season when multiple hitters struggled.

And yet for all of his success, there is a lingering debate among the fan base as to whether the Mariners should trade Haniger and capitalize on his value. It’s a decision the organization and general manager Jerry Dipoto is wrestling with at the moment with the trade deadline looming July 30.

It would certainly seem illogical for a contending team to trade one of its best players, particularly one who is considered one of the hardest workers and most well-liked players on the team. And for a franchise that has the longest postseason drought in North American professional sports, it would seem irresponsible bordering on indefensible.

From a perception standpoint, it would be a tough look for a franchise that lost its last remaining shreds of credibility and confidence after the infamous Zoom call by former president and CEO Kevin Mather.

But those who think trading Haniger as a necessary move point to his age, his past injury issues and his value being higher than it will ever be moving forward. Dipoto listened to trade offers for Haniger following his All-Star season in 2018. Seattle had offered him a contract extension, which one MLB source labeled as “lowball insulting.” It was declined by Haniger and his representatives. Following the injury in June of 2019 and the subsequent surgeries, it has never been discussed again.

Haniger’s value to other teams will likely only get lower with time. He will be a free agent after the 2022 season. So a team acquiring him now would get him for the final two months plus all of next season. His salary also makes him attractive. A team would have to pay the remaining two months on his $3 million salary for 2021. In his final year of arbitration in 2022, he will probably get double that, which is still beyond affordable for his production.

Also

Jake Fraley’s recent positive test for COVID-19 and the news he was not vaccinated resulted in plenty of reaction from Mariners fans frustrated with the situation. Seattle is one of a handful of teams that has failed to reach the 85% threshold vaccination rate for individuals listed as Tier 1 – players, coaches, support staff.

Sources within the organization don’t believe the Mariners will reach that threshold this season with a group of players steadfast in its refusal to be vaccinated. Fraley was one of those players.

While some fans believe the Mariners should either fine, bench or release players who aren’t vaccinated, it’s important to note that the team would be in violation of an agreement between MLB and the MLB Players’ Association.

Per that agreement, MLB can’t force players to get the vaccine, nor punish them for opting not to get it. A team cannot release the names of the players who have or have not been vaccinated.

Any action that could be construed as based upon a player’s vaccination status would be grounds for a grievance from the union.

Also based on that agreement, the team isn’t allowed to publicly comment on whether a player has tested positive for COVID-19 unless approved by the player.

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