Red Sox turn sights to Mitch Haniger after missing out on Jose Abreu


Tomase: Is Mitch Haniger a good free-agent fit for Red Sox? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Red Sox struck out on Jose Abreu, so they've reportedly pivoted to another right-handed pull hitter with power -- Mitch Haniger.

MLB Network's Jon Morosi reports that the Red Sox and Rangers are interested in the former Mariners All-Star, who battled injuries last season, but is only two years removed from slamming 39 homers and driving in 100.

If healthy, the 31-year-old is a prime bounce-back candidate just by virtue of leaving the Pacific Northwest. Seattle's T-Mobile Park consistently suppresses offense, and Haniger has an old-fashioned swing built for Fenway Park, hitting the ball in the air to left field, where the Green Monster beckons.

Though Haniger has compiled virtually as many home runs in Seattle (55) as on the road (57), his OPS is 30 points higher away from the park formerly known as Safeco.

Haniger fits the recent Red Sox mold of low-cost targets in that his myriad injuries -- he has missed 270 games over the last four years -- could depress his market and leave him looking at a shorter-term deal.

Tomase: If Red Sox don't want to pay big, they'll be left out this winter

That said, the potential is there to make an impact. He made his lone All-Star team and finished 11th in the MVP voting in 2018 while hitting .285 with 26 homers and 93 RBIs. He earned MVP votes again with his career-best power numbers in 2021.

He has otherwise faced his share of adversity, however. He took a Jacob deGrom fastball to the face in 2017 and landed on the disabled list. His 2019 season was derailed by a ruptured testicle on a foul ball, with his recovery requiring abdominal surgery as well. He then missed the entire 2020 season.

A severe high ankle sprain on an awkward swing cost him three months last season and he missed more time with back pain, limiting him to 57 games. He still managed 11 home runs and finished on a strong note, with four homers in his last nine games.

A corner outfielder with slightly above average defensive metrics, Haniger has never played anywhere on the infield, so he wouldn't be the right-handed complement at first base to youngster Triston Casas that Abreu would've been. His ability to play right field and even some center, however, would fulfill the stated goal of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom to add a DH with positional flexibility.

Haniger was considered a leader in Seattle, where his tenure bridged the Robinson Canó-Nelson Cruz-Jean Segura years to the rebuilt wild card winners of last season.

Two years ago, he told the Seattle Times how rewarding it was to regain his form after all that time on the sidelines.

"Just a lot of time missed time with a lot of pain," he said. "Not really being able to walk for a little bit and kind of being pretty much broken and being able to come back, it's been fun.

"There's definitely been moments. I feel like once you go through stuff like that, that puts your career in jeopardy, you have to kind of be grateful and take some time to be thankful to be able to be healthy, to be back on the field and back in the clubhouse."

Maybe that clubhouse will soon be on the home side at Fenway Park.


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