It’s no secret that the 2023-2024 MLB offseason has been, well, a snooze fest so far.
Once the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto found their new homes, we all knew it’d get quieter. But this quiet? No chance.
On Friday, the floodgates may have finally found a way to open. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants agreed to a rather large trade. Going to the Giants is former Cy Young winner Robbie Ray. Heading back to the Mariners is outfielder Mitch Haniger and starter Anthony DeSclafani.
Per Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, the Mariners will also be receiving $6 million in cash from the Giants.
This is one of those moves that nobody saw coming and – even better – features nothing but big leaguers. Before we continue, the Mariners are close to acquiring outfielder Luke Raley from the Rays. Infielder Jose Caballero is expected to go the other way.
In another trade, the Rays are close to acquiring Richie Palacios from the Cardinals. Right-hander Andrew Kittredge is reportedly the return. It’s been a busy day for Seattle, San Francisco and Tampa Bay.
What the Mariners Are Getting
To start with, Haniger is returning to where he spent five years prior to the 2023 season. The 33-year-old made an All-Star Game and had two top-20 finishes in the AL MVP voting as a member of the Mariners before spending last year on the Giants.
Haniger, a first-round pick of the Brewers in 2012, has proven time and time again that he can be a top-shelf bat when he’s healthy. Of course, that’s been his issue in recent years. Shockingly, the outfielder has appeared in 100 or more games in just two of his seven big league seasons.
Last year, he made it into 61 contests for the Giants. In that time, he stumbled to the finish line with an uninspiring .209/.266/.365 line with an OPS+ of just 73; easily the lowest he’s ever had.
Now, he will return to a Mariners lineup that has needed some offense in the worst way.
With Mitch Garver (and now Raley) being the lone other acquisition(s) of the offseason, bringing Haniger home was a necessary move. It’s expected that he’ll immediately become the club’s every day left fielder, taking the spot from someone like Dylan Moore or Sam Haggerty – both of whom are better served as bench bats.
DeSclafani, 33, is another player that has dealt with plenty of injuries in recent years. The right-hander made 19 appearances (18 starts) for the Giants last year and went 4-8 with a 4.88 ERA, 4.35 FIP and 87 ERA+.
Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry DiPoto mentioned in a post-trade statement that DeSclafani can both start and relieve. This means that it’s entirely possible that he fills a flexible, “swingman” type of role next year.
What the Giants Are Getting
By Opening Day, the Giants will not have gotten anything … right away. Ray, 32, made exactly one start in 2023 before going on the shelf with an elbow injury. In the end, he had surgery to reconstruct his UCL and repair his flexor tendon.
By the time Ray would’ve returned to the Mariners’ rotation, he wouldn’t have had a spot waiting for him. Seattle has built quite the starting-five, and there was room for at least one of the starters to be moved. Right now, the hope is Ray can join the Giants’ rotation around midseason. However, no firm timetable has been set for his return.
The left-hander is only two years removed from winning a Cy Young Award as a member of the Blue Jays. He went 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA and 157 ERA+ in 32 starts. He followed that up with another 32-start season before being bit by the injury bug last year.
With Logan Webb functioning as the staff ace, the Giants didn’t really have much else behind him in their 2024 rotation. Ross Stripling was so-so in his first year in San Fran, and the other three spots in the rotation are currently projected to go to rookies.
The concern here is that Ray is unable to tap back into his 2021-2022 form. He’s typically been able to maintain an ERA+ north of 100 over the course of his career, but walks are also an issue and he’s not exactly getting any younger.
This is all without mentioning the gigantic contract he’s currently playing out.
Prior to the 2022 season, he signed a five-year, $115 million deal with the Mariners. This means he’s not set to hit free agency until the conclusion of the 2026 season, so the Giants are going to be stuck with him – for better or for worse.
Now it is worth noting that Ray has an opt-out clause in his contract after this season, but it would be very surprising for him to do anything in the second half to warrant turning the remaining two years and $50 million on his contract.
More To Come
Aside from Ray, the Giants are also getting one more thing: the flexibility to add more pieces.
While the club has already brought aboard Jung-Hoo Lee, a top-tier outfielder like Cody Bellinger would be the perfect addition to offset the loss of Haniger.
On the pitching side of things, the organization has been tied to the likes of Blake Snell and Shota Imanaga in recent days. Bringing aboard one of them would be a huge get, and moving on from DeSclafani provides an opening in their rotation. Yes, Ray will need a spot once he’s healthy, but there are likely going to be two spots in need of an upgrade by the time he’s ready to come back.