This is the off-season for the Dodgers to make a splash and acquire an impact player or two. Coming off back-to-back World Series loses, the team possesses a strong group of core players with more depth than they know what to do with.
If the season started today, the Dodgers would be considered the favorites to win a 7th straight National League West title. The only real way to upgrade the team is with elite talent.
They have already been connected to Bryce Harper, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, and J.T. Realmuto. While all those players would be great acquisitions, there is an under-the-radar player who would improve the team in a significant way: Seattle Mariners’ outfielder Mitch Haniger.
Haniger, who will be entering his age 28 season, made his debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2016 but struggled to produce over 34 games. In the off-season, the Diamondbacks traded Haniger, along with Jean Segura and Zac Curtis, to the Mariners for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte.
During the 2017 season, Haniger started to breakout. Over 410 plate appearances, he hit .282/.352/.491 with 16 home runs, a 130 wRC+, and a 2.5 WAR. Last season, Haniger’s rise to stardom continued. In 683 plate appearances, he hit .285/.366/.493 with 26 home runs, a 138 wRC+, and posted a 4.6 WAR.
If the Dodgers acquired Haniger, there is reason to believe he could become an even better player. Haniger has a league average ground ball rate of 42.6% over his career. Working with hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc, Haniger could increase his fly ball rate and see a bigger power increase.
Haniger would immediately become the best outfielder on the team and his right-handed bat would provide some balance to an incredibly left-handed lineup.
Acquiring Haniger from the Mariners would not come cheap. He currently has 1 more year of pre-arbitration control and then 3 years of arbitration, giving the team 4 years of control.
The first way the Dodgers could try to acquire him is with a package of prospects. An elite player with 4 years of control is going to cost multiple top prospects. Think 1 or 2 of Alex Verdugo, Keibert Ruiz, Will Smith, Dustin May, and Gavin Lux. On top of that, they would likely want some mid-tier and lower level prospects.
The other way the Dodgers could try to get Haniger is to take on the contract of Kyle Seager, Dee Gordon, or another large contract player. The Mariners have already shown they want to move their long term contracts while taking on short term money as they go through their rebuild. Seager is owed $56 million over 3 years before a buyout in the 2022 season. If they acquire any of the high contract players, they would likely try to trade them or DFA them as they would just be wasted roster spots.
The Dodgers could try to attach Matt Kemp in the deal to keep them under the luxury tax or they could just absorb the contract of Seager to lessen the prospect cost even more. It would still cost at least one top prospect but they could get him for less.
While the cost will be high, the Dodgers should be interested in Mitch Haniger. He would immediately provide an offensive boost to an already deep lineup. With his team control, Haniger would be ready to take over right field if Puig is traded or leaves in free agency after the season. He would help provide balance to the lineup and give the team the versatility to move any of the other outfielders to upgrade the team further.
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