Haniger, Smith, Tuivailala ink 1-year deals

January 10th, 2020

SEATTLE -- Outfielders and and reliever all agreed to one-year contracts with the Mariners on Friday to avoid entering the arbitration process to determine their 2020 salaries.

The Mariners announced that all three of their arbitration-eligible players signed prior to Friday’s 10 a.m. PT deadline to exchange salary figures. According to sources, the contract figures are $3.010 million for Haniger, $2.35 million for Smith and $800,000 for Tuivailala. All three are in their first year of arbitration eligibility and will have two more years in that process before becoming free agents in 2023.

Players with three or more but less than six years of Major League service time who aren’t already under contract for the next season enter into the arbitration process to determine their salaries. Most players and clubs come to an agreement before the deadline, but those who don’t then exchange figures and an arbitration panel chooses either the club’s offer or the player’s asking price at a hearing in February if no compromise is reached in the interim.

The Mariners have had just two players go all the way to an arbitration hearing since 2000. Reliever Tom Wilhelmsen lost his case in 2015, with the panel choosing the team's $1.4 million offer over his requested $2.2 million. Starting pitcher Freddy Garcia won his case in '03 when he was awarded $6.875 million over the team's $5.9 million offer.

The Mariners have had 20 cases go to a hearing in the franchise’s 43-year history, but 17 of those were from 1980-93.

With a relatively young roster heading into the 2020 season, the Mariners had just the three arbitration-eligible players remaining this year. Of the seven other players who would have been arbitration eligible, Omar Narváez was traded to the Brewers, Tim Beckham and Domingo Santana were non-tendered, Anthony Bass was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays, Matt Wisler was claimed by the Twins and Ryon Healy and Keon Broxton declined outrights to the Minors and became free agents.

Haniger earned $590,100 last season, and the 2018 All-Star likely would have got a larger pay hike, but he played just 63 games last season due to a ruptured testicle and ensuing core and back issues. Even before his injury, Haniger had posted just a .220/.314/.463 line, well off his '18 numbers of .285/.366/.493. But he did have 15 homers and 32 RBIs with 1.4 Wins Above Replacement (per Baseball Reference) in just two months. Haniger, 29, is regarded as one of Seattle’s core veterans.

Smith led the Majors with 46 stolen bases last year, but he posted just a .227/.300/.335 line and -0.1 bWAR in 134 games, a significant drop from the .296/.367/.406 and 3.5 bWAR in 141 games the prior season with the Rays. The 26-year-old heads into 2020 as the club’s starting center fielder, though he’ll get some competition from prospects , and, eventually, . Smith earned $578,400 in '19.

Tuivailala posted a 2.35 ERA in 23 innings over 23 appearances last season following his return from a ruptured right Achilles tendon. He pitched just five games for Seattle after a midseason trade with St. Louis in 2018 before getting injured in a rundown. The 27-year-old righty rejoined the Mariners in mid-July and is expected to be one of their late-inning bullpen candidates this season. He earned $568,000 earned last year.

Mariners acquire Haggerty
Switch-hitting utility man Sam Haggerty, who played in 11 games as a September callup with the Mets last year, was claimed off waivers by the Mariners on Friday to fill the final open position on their 40-man roster.

Haggerty was released by the Mets on Wednesday after being designated for assignment on Dec. 24. He was used primarily as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner in his brief time in the Majors, going 0-for-4 and scoring two runs.

The 25-year-old has been primarily at second base in his Minor League career, but he can play any of the infield or outfield positions. He posted a .271/.376/.387 line with three home runs and 23 stolen bases in 86 Minor League games across three levels last year, with 68 of those games at Double-A Binghamton and 12 at Triple-A Syracuse.

Haggerty, a 24th-round Draft choice of the Indians in 2015 out of the University of New Mexico, was traded to the Mets prior to last season. He has hit .249 with 15 homers, 143 RBIs and 113 stolen bases in 408 games over five Minor League seasons.

Haggerty figures to compete with returnees and for Seattle’s utility role this spring, with teams allowed to carry one extra player when rosters will expand to 26 players for the regular season.