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Seattle Mariners

Mariners bring back Mitch Haniger in deal with Giants for Robbie Ray

Mitch Haniger of the Seattle Mariners connects for a two-run home run in the fifth inning, breaking a tie with the Los Angeles Angels, at T-Mobile Park on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in Seattle. The Mariners prevailed, 6-4, to keep their playoff hopes alive.  (Tribune News Service)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Mariners’ search for a right-handed hitting corner outfielder who can be a presence in the middle of their lineup has resulted in a reunion with an old friend.

Mitch Haniger is returning to Seattle.

On a busy Friday for roster moves, the Mariners finalized a trade with the San Francisco Giants to reacquire Haniger, who left the Mariners after the 2022 season as a free agent, with right-handed pitcher Anthony DeSclafani and $3 million in cash for left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray.

“As we continue to build out our team for 2024 and beyond, we feel this trade accomplishes a couple of our objectives,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “In Mitch, we get a player we know well, and hold in very high regard, as another piece for our outfield, while Anthony – who can start or pitch out of the ’pen – gives us depth in our pitching staff. And the deal allows us to put the best team possible on the field from Opening Day on.”

The Mariners also reportedly were working to finalize a trade with the Rays that would acquire first baseman Luke Raley for infielder Jose Caballero.

Haniger, who turned 33 on Dec. 23, returns to the organization where he blossomed as an MLB player after a frustrating one-year hiatus in San Francisco, where a fluke injury kept him on the injured list for a large part of the season.

On June 13, he was struck on the right forearm by a 90-mph fastball from Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty. Haniger left the game, and tests revealed a fractured ulna that required surgery.

Haniger returned from the injured list Aug. 29 and finished the season with the Giants, playing in 21 games. He played 61 games in 2023, posting a .209/.266/.365 slash line with 13 doubles, a triple, six homers, 28 RBIs, 15 walks and 65 strikeouts.

Similar fluke injuries – a fastball off the jaw and a foul tip to the groin, which resulted in two surgeries and an odd high-ankle sprain – hampered Haniger’s six seasons with Seattle. When healthy, he was an All-Star-caliber player. After missing the COVID-shortened 2020 season due to back surgery, Haniger returned to play in 157 games in 2021, posting a .253/.318/.485 slash line with 23 doubles, 39 homers and 100 RBIs.

After helping lead the Mariners to their first postseason appearance in 2022, Haniger returned to the Bay Area where he grew up, signing a three-year, $43.5 million contract with the Giants.

DeSclafani, 33, made 19 appearances (18 starts) with San Francisco in 2023, posting a 4-8 record with a 4.88 ERA. In 99⅔ innings, he struck out 79 and walked 20.

The right-hander had two stints on the injured list: July 3-17 because of right-shoulder fatigue and July 30 through the end of the season because of a right-elbow flexor strain.

In nine MLB seasons, DeSclafani has a 54-56 record with a 4.20 ERA in 180 games (169 starts). He is in the final year of the three-year, $36 million contract he signed with the Giants. He will earn $12 million in 2024 and become a free agent after the season.

Ray made one just one start in 2023 and felt elbow discomfort following the outing. He was placed on the 15-day injured list because of a flexor strain. Discomfort during his rehab process led to further tests, and he was diagnosed with a tear in the flexor tendon and a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He underwent season-ending surgery May 2 and isn’t scheduled to return until late July or early August.

Seattle signed Ray to a five-year, $115 million contract following the 2021 season, when won the American League Cy Young Award while pitching for the Blue Jays.

In 2022, he posted a 12-12 record and 3.71 ERA in 32 starts. In 189 innings he struck out 212 and walked 62.

“I do want to thank Robbie for his time in Seattle,” Dipoto said. “On the field and in the clubhouse, he was a key part of taking us to the postseason in 2022 and in allowing us to remain in the race down to the final days in 2023. He provided leadership to our young pitchers that will be felt here for years to come. We wish he and his family nothing but the best in San Francisco.”

Ray had a full no-trade clause in his contract for the first two years of the deal. But the clause expired Monday, making him eligible to be traded without paying a $1 million bonus. Ray’s contract also includes an opt-out clause after the 2024 season.