Better fit than Haniger for Mariners’ OF may be Brandon Nimmo

The Mariners’ outfield will be the center of attention this hot oven season, and for good reason.

Dipoto: Seemann’s plan for outfield, no “slam dunk” Haniger returns

While Julio Rodríguez blossomed into an all-star center fielder as a rookie in 2022, Seattle really has nothing else in the corners around him for 2023. Jesse Winker’s future with the team is uncertain, Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammell are already establishing themselves at the big league level, and most importantly Mitch Haniger’s forthcoming free hand.

While Haniger made the 2018 All-Star Game and was the Mariners’ top hitter in a 90-win season in 2021, he’s struggled to stay healthy throughout his career and has endured a disappointing 2022 season that saw injuries set in again problem were . Seattle can make Haniger a qualifying offer before free agency opens next month, but there’s still no guarantee he’ll be back on the right field patrolling T-Mobile Park in 2023.

MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi discussed the Mariners’ situation with Haniger during his weekly visit to Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Wednesday, and while he believes a qualifying offer could be a good option for both sides, he wonders if the M’s would be better off another direction to go in free agency.

“It’s really hard, especially when you have a player who’s been hampered by injuries, to go out into the open market and do a 57-game tryout where he hit 11 home runs but his slugging percentage went down — it.” was actually his lowest than a Mariner,” Morosi said. “…In that regard, I would have some concerns about Mitch Haniger as a free agent…and I would even say that you’re probably talking about him being behind Brandon Nimmo.”

Nimmo, as Morosi would go on to explain, could be a very interesting option for Seattle if they decide to move away from Haniger. A seven-year veteran with the New York Mets, Nimmo is younger (29 years old while Haniger is 32), a strong defender, a quick runner, and a capable hitter off the left, which likely requires more of the M’s than Haniger’s right-hander .

“I think Nimmo is a really good play, and honestly, Nimmo might be someone the Mariners are looking at,” Morosi said. “…You could argue that Nimmo might be a better fit for this team than Mitch Haniger because he gives you that left-handed hitter, gives you a little bit more balance, gives you a lot of on-base (percent) — he was one of their best.” On base boys in baseball. And so I think having Nimmo (hitting) one and J-Rod two or vice versa at the top of the lineup would be a pretty appealing combination from that standpoint. I think he would be a really good fit so I would pay a lot of attention to the Nimmo possibility.”

In 2022, Nimmo played a career-high 154 games and hit a .274/.367/.433 slash for .800 OPS with 16 homers, 30 doubles, seven triples and 71 walks. His Baseball Savant page features many things to like, including an 84th percentile baseball sprint speed, a 90th percentile pursuit rate, and 91st percentile above-average outs. He also made one of the catches of the year in midfield.

Morosi added that the Mariners might have an advantage in getting Nimmo to join the team because he’s from the Northwest — or at least a Northwest neighbor, depending on whether you count Wyoming as part of the region. Nimmo hails from Cheyenne, Wyoming, and the 2011 No. 13 overall pick is the state’s top MLB draft pick.

“We’ve talked a lot about the Mariners attracting free agents, and I’d say someone from Wyoming looks at Seattle and thinks it’s around the corner,” Morosi said with a small chuckle. “That’s a nice regional neighbor if you will… I think (signing Nimo) is a really good idea to keep in mind. I really think, based on his youth relatively and his health, Nimmo is someone who I would say is a very appealing guy for the Mariners to take pretty seriously.

You can listen to the full conversation with Morosi, which also includes his thoughts on the Mariners potentially following Aaron Judge and the shortstops at hand, in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan: Aaron Judge would be 100% worth it for the Mariners

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