Atlanta Braves Way Too Early Trade Candidates: Mitch Haniger

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Welcome back to the weekly Atlanta Braves “way too early trade candidates” column.

It is safe to say after the terrible news that transpired with soon to be former Atlanta Brave Marcell Ozuna, the offense needs a boost.

There are many factors at play here. There is no guarantee that the money Ozuna was owed will be voided. In fact, in similar cases of domestic abuse with other players in the past, a contract has never been voided. Take Hector Olivera, for example. The Braves had to swing a trade just to get rid of his gaudy contract.

The trade market also has not settled yet with only a handful of teams sticking out as being sellers. This will most likely result in clubs that are going to sell waiting for the market to take shape, which will allow them to get the best value.

Who should the Atlanta Braves Target?

Remember, we’re looking at realistic trades here, and we’re only considering players who could be traded for one of three reasons.

  1. Rebuilding: Teams that know they won’t compete may trade their desirable players for prospects to expedite the rebuild process. We’ll be looking for veteran players who can help the Braves win now from these teams.
  2. Contending: Teams that feel they will compete will trade their prospects for players to help the club now to a rebuilding team. The Braves fall into this category.
  3. Salary Dump: Baseball is a business, and a team in a tight spot financially may be willing to trade a contract they no longer want for financial flexibility. Depending on the scenario, a team could part with a prospect or Major League players for cash considerations.

As I stated earlier, there are only a few teams that are virtually guaranteed to sell come the trade deadline — the Pirates, Orioles, Tigers, Rangers, Diamondbacks, Rockies. However, the Twins, Nationals, Reds and Mariners could join that group over the next month or so.

So, which of these teams would line up with the Atlanta Braves?

In reality, all of these teams make sense as a trade partner to some degree. They are in the midst of a rebuild, or should be soon, except for maybe the Twins, who should seriously consider at least retooling.

On paper, the Mariners may try to stay the course. However, Seattle is always a wildcard with Jerry Dipito at the helm. He is not afraid to move anyone, and is so trade happy, he has done it from his hospital bed.

The Mariners’ farm is in good shape — ranked number 3 by during the pre-season — so they may be looking to compete relatively soon. Dealing a player that is not guaranteed to be on the competitive squad could really speed up the process for a team that is in desperate need of a post-season appearance.

Enter Mitch Haniger

If the Mariners are willing to trade at the deadline, then Alex Anthopoulos has to inquire about Mitch Haniger.

For the Braves, who most likely are looking for low cost players, Haniger is only owed 3.01 million this year and is arbitration eligible in 2022 before becoming a free agent in 2023.

For The Mariners, their Achilles heel has been pitching, which the Braves have plenty of in the minors. If the Mariners do not extend Haniger, which is unlikely since the Mariners hardly ever extend anyone under Dipito, he will not be part of their contending squad. Every day that goes by, Haniger’s contract is shorter, making him less and less valuable.

What do his numbers look like?

Haniger has been absolutely fantastic this year, slashing .261/.308/.517 with a 134 OPS+ (34% better than league average), and 1.3 WAR. His only downfalls this year so far is his below career average defense at -0.5 dWAR and low OBP of .308.

With numbers like these, it would seem odd at first that his salary this year is so low, but Haniger has been unfortunate in the injury department — only surpassing 96 games once since 2016. However, when he is healthy, he is excellent. In 2018, his last full season where he played 157 games, he had numbers very similar to this year, recording a 139 OPS+ and a 6.5 WAR.

What about his underlying metrics? Has he just been lucky?

In short, no, he has not been unlucky. In fact, according to baseball savant, he has been unlucky in terms of getting on base. Along with his BABIP of .289 being lower than his career average, check out these peripherals:

  • Expected Weighted On Base Average (xwOBA) – Top 68% of the MLB
  • HardHit% – Top 63%
  • Expected Batting Average (xBA) – Top 70%
  • Expected Slugging Percentage (xSLG) – Top 84%
  • Barrel% – Top 84%

If the Atlanta Braves and Seattle Mariners could line up this trade, it could make both teams better in the long run. The Braves would have a middle of the order bat with very high upside at a relatively low cost for a year and a half, and the Mariners could speed up their rebuild much quicker with some near MLB ready talent.

Photo: Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire

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