When it occurred, it seemed to be the Jean Segura trade. Now, it's the Mitch Haniger trade. On Thanksgiving Eve this past year, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto swung a blockbuster trade because of course he did. Dipoto sent inconsistent starter Taijuan Walker, and flashy shortstop Ketel Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis.
Immediately, it was a move seemed to upgrade the Mariners play at shortstop. Marte, the starter in 2016 showed signs of being a good player, but made mistakes on routine ground balls and lacked plate discipline. Segura, who was coming off a 2016 season where he lead the NL in hits seemed to be a great upgrade and was the main piece of the deal.
It's about 20 games into the season now, and it seems that Segura may be the secondary piece the Mariners acquired. Segura has been a great player for Seattle despite missing time with injury, but Mitch Haniger has quite simply been incredible. Haniger was highly rated when the trade was made, and is showing why through the first weeks of the season. The 26-year-old right fielder has been quite simply the Mariners best player so far by a pretty good margin.
Seattle has come out of the gate slow, largely due to inconsistent pitching and slow starts by Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. If it weren't for Haniger, Seattle could be in some serious trouble at this point rather than their still mediocre 8-12 record. Haniger is slashing .321/.430/.590 with an OPS of 1.020. He also has four home runs, 16 runs batted in and leads the American League in runs scored.
Most of the AL rookie attention goes to Andrew Benintendi and Aaron Judge for obvious reasons. Benintendi is the high caliber prospect that everyone knows, Judge is the incredibly powerful Yankee outfielder. Both get the media attention because the play for big market teams, and because they are both good players.
Look at the numbers though, and you'll find that Haniger is better. Benintendi edges Haniger out in average, Judge has two more home runs and a higher slugging percentage but that's it. Haniger has more runs scored and RBIs than both, a better OBP than both, a better OPS than both, a higher average than Judge, and more home runs than Benintendi.
Ipersonally am not a huge fan of sabermetrics, but sometimes they do tell the story very well. As it pertains to sabers, Haniger has a higher BABIP, wRC+, wOBA and WAR than both Benintendi and Judge. The big Yankee outfielder has the highest ISO, but that's not surprising due to his incredible raw power. Haniger is also both a good fielder and a good baserunner on top of being a terrific hitter.
Obviously it's still very early so it will be interesting to see if Haniger can keep this up, but if he can it'll be hard to argue against him as the American League Rookie of the Year when the time does come to vote on it.