Newly acquired Garver adds pop, stability to Rangers' mix

Former Silver Slugger-winning backstop provides good mentor for young pitching staff

March 12th, 2022

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- The Texas Rangers acquired catcher Mitch Garver from the Minnesota Twins for shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and right-handed pitching prospect Ronny Henriquez, the club announced on Saturday morning.

Garver was dogged by injuries in 2021 but still hit 13 home runs with an .875 OPS in 68 games. He clubbed 31 homers in 2019 and adds pop to a Rangers infield that has already added shortstop Corey Seager and second baseman Marcus Semien.

President of baseball operations Jon Daniels said the trade was discussed in the 48 hours before the lockout, then tabled when it wasn’t completed. Talks ramped up again in the 24 hours following the conclusion of the lockout and the details were nailed down.

Daniels called it a “Winter Meetings type of trade" that happened during Spring Training due to the lockout circumstances.

“We’re talking about a Silver Slugger-winning catcher that can bring us a real competitive advantage behind the plate,” Daniels said. “We’re looking forward to welcoming him and seeing him grow here on the team and help us grow as we work [toward] building a championship club.”

Having a veteran catcher behind the plate is also of good use to the Rangers, who have a plethora of young pitching prospects nearing their debuts.

“Mitch is a little bit older and has a reputation for working well with pitchers,” said general manager Chris Young. “I think that wisdom and experience -- and that relationship -- is extremely important for the development of our young staff. We're looking forward to fostering that. It was a contributing factor, in terms of how we viewed Mitch’s strengths, and we're excited about it.”

The Rangers now have four catchers on their 40-man roster: Garver, Jonah Heim, Jose Trevino and Sam Huff, the club’s fifth-ranked prospect. Heim and Trevino have proven themselves as solid defensive catchers, but Garver brings a different level offensively. Garver won a Silver Slugger Award in 2019, when he slashed .273/.365/.630 with a .995 OPS.

Daniels called catcher a “position of strength” for the club because of that depth. Manager Chris Woodward emphasized the competition component of the Garver addition, though the intention is for him to be the starter behind the plate.

Garver has struggled with injuries throughout his big league career, and has played only 209 games in five seasons. History suggests he won’t catch 100 games, which he’s only done once in his career, leaving room for a lot of competition for the backup position.

Huff is expected to start the season at Triple-A Round Rock until he’s ready to return to the big league stage, so Heim and Trevino will look to compete.

“The one thing I do love is that we're creating a roster full of competition,” Woodward said. “All these guys have no fear of competition. That's what we want. That's what good teams have. These guys just have to perform and things will take care of themselves.”

Kiner-Falefa, who hit .271 with eight home runs and 20 steals last year, has experience at catcher and third base, but he played all of his 158 games last year at shortstop. He fills a hole for the Twins at that position after Andrelton Simmons reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Cubs on Friday. Daniels said a number of teams called to inquire about Kiner-Falefa following the Seager and Semien signings.

Woodward compared him to Rangers Hall of Famer Michael Young, because of his versatility in the infield and desire to do whatever needs to be done to help the team win.

Henriquez, 21, recorded a 4.71 ERA with 105 strikeouts and only 25 walks in 93 2/3 innings across High-A and Double-A. He was the Rangers’ No. 15 prospect at the time of the deal, according to MLB Pipeline.

Kiner-Falefa was assumed to be the Opening Day third baseman following top prospect Josh Jung’s shoulder injury that will leave him sidelined until August. The deal leaves the Rangers’ with a hole at third base.

That role will now likely be filled by some combination of Andy Ibáñez and Yonny Hernandez at the start of camp. Nick Solak, who played 11 games at third in 2019, could also get reps there. Woodward noted the top infield prospects like Ezekiel Duran, Josh Smith, Davis Wendzel and Justin Foscue are not likely to make the Opening Day roster, but could debut later in the season.

Daniels noted third base will not be a point of emphasis through the rest of free agency, but they could still add if the fit is right.

“We recognized the value of having [Kiner-Falefa] to play third base,” Young said. “That said, I think assessing the catching situation, the catching market and how we view Mitch Garver in terms of the fit of our team -- both this year and next year and with [Kiner-Falefa] also wanting to play shortstop, [the trade] made sense in a lot of ways.”