The 2023 season is officially in the books for veteran SF Giants outfielder Mitch Haniger. The team announced that he was placed on the injured list with a lower back strain, which mirrors exactly how his season began.
2023 season ends how it began for veteran SF Giants outfielder
Haniger began the year on the injured list after sustaining an oblique strain during spring training. He missed the first four weeks of the season. He suffered another injury, a fractured forearm, after getting hit by a pitch in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals in June, missing the next two months of the year.
The seven-year veteran will miss the final weekend after being placed on the injured list for the third time this season. Disappointing might not be a strong enough word to describe Haniger's first year with San Francisco. He inked a three-year, $43.5 million contract last winter, which represented one of the Giants' largest expenditures to a free-agent position player in the past three decades.
The Giants thought they were getting a bit of a discount as the right-handed bat had a strong track record of production as he has posted a .256/.329/.466 line (119 OPS+) with an 8.7 percent walk rate against a 24.3 percent strikeout rate throughout his career. However, durability had been a huge question mark as he appeared in over 100 games just twice prior to signing with the Giants.
Unfortunately, Haniger did nothing to quell those concerns as he appeared in just 61 games in 2023. This was followed by a season in which he played in just 57 games. In fairness, the forearm fracture was a freak injury, so he likely would have appeared in over 100 games had the injury not occurred.
The 32-year-old posted a .209/.266/.365 line (72 OPS+) with six home runs, 28 RBI, and 27 runs in 229 plate appearances with the Giants this season. This includes a 6.6 percent walk rate, 28.4 percent strikeout rate, and a .156 ISO. Few free agents struggled as badly in their first season with the Giants as Haniger did. By the end of the year, Haniger had seemingly been demoted to a bench role.
Though, this could have been due to the fact that the Giants just wanted to give more at-bats to other players while they were out of contention. Nevertheless, they will need to figure out why so many veteran hitters, including Haniger, performed well below expectations this season. Injuries might be a factor, but given how aggressively the front office invested in injury risk, it is not an excuse.