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Mitch Haniger is Back, How Good Has he Been?

It has been essentially two calendar years since the Mariners and their fans have seen the Mitch Haniger they've grown to know and love. Watching him in spring training at-bats this year it was clear that he was fully healthy and he was back. He has been the Mariners best player this year, with some good competition from Ty France (whom I wrote an article about before the season as well).

In 19 games this season, Haniger has been locked in and that may be an understatement. He has posted a slash line of .316/.349/.605 which equates to an OPS of .954 which would be a career high by nearly 100 points. In 2018, Haniger was an All-Star and currently he looks poised to have a considerably better season. Comparing 2018 to 2021, Haniger's Barrel% is up 4.3 percent at a 13.3% mark. To add more context to his start of the season, he has a 166 wRC+ (weighted Runs Created +). League average for wRC+ is 100. Are these numbers sustainable? Some regression can be expected or anticipated, but his expected batting average (xBA) compared to his actual batting average are almost identical which suggest that no part of his success has been based off luck, his quality of contact is doing all the talking.

The question the Mariners need to ask themselves and they've probably been asking it for some time now, is do they give Mitch a nice payday and lock him in for the foreseeable future? Do they start shopping him around? He will not be an unrestricted free agent until 2023, giving a potential trade partner almost 2 seasons worth of Haniger if they were to trade for him tomorrow. His value will not be higher than it is right now or at the trade deadline of this season. If they were to wait until the offseason, the package they would receive in return would be much less impressive. At which point, it may be more worth keeping him on the roster in 2022 and seeing what the team can accomplish. After all, 2022 is really when the Mariners expect to be back in the mix from a true competitive standpoint.

Personally, he has been my favorite Mariner since he was acquired. I would enjoy seeing him on the next potential playoff team in Seattle. Though I have waited for a playoff appearance for too long; if they can get impact young players in return for dealing Haniger, the franchise would be committing malpractice by not making such a trade.

*all statistics gathered from Fangraphs*

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