Why Giants view Haniger as big piece to overhauled outfield originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
SAN DIEGO — Aaron Judge’s visit to Oracle Park included planning from more than two dozen members of the Giants organization and a cross-country flight into the Bay Area, but when it came time to recruit another powerful free agent outfielder, the Giants had a much easier path.
Mitch Haniger, an Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) alum who was born in Mountain View, now lives in Santa Cruz and made the short drive up to Oracle Park earlier this offseason. There was mutual interest from both sides, and on Tuesday the Giants announced a three-year deal with the former Seattle Mariners outfielder.
At the moment, the Giants are hopeful that Haniger is part of a massive overhaul of their outfield. They remain in contact with Judge’s side and are hopeful they can team him with Haniger and Mike Yastrzemski in their outfield. At the very least, they know they’re coming home with one new outfielder.
Haniger got a three-year deal with an opt-out after the second year. He is due $43.5 million overall but the contract is backloaded, with a $6 million signing bonus and just a $5 million base salary in 2023. The Giants are hopeful the structure of the deal allows them a bit more flexibility to add to next year’s roster.
If Judge signs, as well, Haniger likely will play left field for the Giants, who plan to use Joc Pederson as their primary designated hitter. Haniger has mostly played right field in his career and would be a big defensive upgrade over Pederson in left, although he certainly still could play a lot of right field if the Giants are not able to convince Judge to leave New York.
No matter where he plays, the Giants believe they’re getting an imposing bat. Haniger hit 39 homers and drove in 100 runs in 2021, but last season, he was limited to 57 games because of COVID and an ankle injury. He hit just 11 homers but was 14 points better than league average by OPS-plus.
Zaidi noted that Haniger brings a lot of right-handed power, something the Giants are chasing this offseason as they look to balance their lineup.
“He’s just a really good all-around player,” Zaidi said. “I’ve been a fan of his entire career.”
Had Haniger repeated those 2021 numbers, he would have been in line for a much larger deal, but he has played more than 100 games just twice since breaking into the big leagues in 2016. The Giants have gotten some steals by pursuing similar players on the pitching side and Zaidi said the staff is confident Haniger can stay on the field.
“We’re just really confident in his current health and view some of his injuries over the last few years as flukish,” he said.
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Haniger’s other full season came in 2018, and he made the All-Star team while finishing 11th in AL MVP voting. The Giants are hopeful for another big year, but they won’t need quite that much production if Judge signs on later this week.
After a crazy day of rumors and incorrect reports, Zaidi said he didn’t want to address the latest on the chase for Judge, noting that he spoke about him Monday. The Giants and Yankees continue to wait for the reigning AL MVP to make a decision.
“There’s been stuff out there,” Zaidi said of the wild day. “It’s really noisy.”
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