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  • Securing Sauce: Should the Twins Extend Mitch Garver?


    Nash Walker

    Mitch Garver has been one of baseball’s best offensive catchers in recent seasons. With free agency looming after the 2023 season, should the Twins extend their right-handed slugger?

    Image courtesy of Sam Greene via Imagn Content Services, LLC

    Mitch Garver, 31, was incredible during the Twins’ magical 2019 run to a division title. He hit 31 homers and drove in 67 runs in 359 plate appearances. Since then, he struggled in a shortened 2020 and bounced back in 2021. Let’s examine his case for an extension. 

    The Case FOR Extension
    Among catchers with at least 600 plate appearances over the last three seasons, Garver ties Dodgers’ Will Smith for the highest wRC+ (135). He’s arguably been the best-hitting catcher in the league over that span, even with a brutal 2020 season. 

    Garver has produced 29.2 FanGraphs offensive WAR since 2019, ranking right behind Phillies’ star J.T. Realmuto among catchers. To have an elite bat at the catcher spot is one of the most valued commodities in the sport. Garver qualifies as that. 

    Nine Twins have logged 1,000 or more plate appearances since 2018. Only Nelson Cruz (162) has a higher OPS+ than Garver (124), who has hit .256/.341/.494 since becoming a regular.

    An intercostal strain and ineffectiveness marred Garver’s COVID season, but he returned to form in 2021. Garver had 28 extra-base hits in just 68 games. If not for a brutal injury shortening his season, the Albuquerque native was on pace for a repeat of 2019. He set career-highs in hard-hit rate (54%) and walk rate (13%). 

    Garver ranked in the 93rd percentile in pitch framing, furthering his progression behind the plate. Garver was negative-17 in Defensive Runs Saved in 2018. Since then, he’s been a plus-defender, saving four runs. He’s made serious strides and is now a masher who you can rely on defensively. 

    Extension Comp: James McCann, New York Mets
    This is a little tricky, but McCann was around the same age as Garver when he signed a four-year, $40.6 million deal with the Mets. McCann was a free agent coming off two terrific seasons in Chicago. Both are right-handed sluggers who crush left-handed pitching. 

    McCann tanked in his first season in New York with a .643 OPS and negative-bWAR, but he provides a solid look at what a Garver deal could encompass. Garver projects to make $3.1 million in 2022 and about $6 million in 2023 via arbitration.

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    The Case AGAINST Extension
    That Garver is a catcher has been a significant plus in addition to his offense. The Twins are assuming he remains a solid catcher in an extension like this. That’s a rosy assumption. Garver is heading into his 30s and has already dealt with multiple injuries over the last few years.

    There’s also redundancy with two right-handed catchers on the roster. Ryan Jeffers looks very similar to Garver, with strong framing skills and differing splits against right and left-handed pitchers. It’s not an ideal tandem, but that’s not to say it’s impossible to navigate. 

    Garver has had periods where he’s late on fastballs, and he doesn’t precisely limit his strikeout rate. There’s plenty of swing-and-miss in his game, and he has been streaky at specific points. When Garver's on, he’s lethal. When he’s not, you get stretches like 2020 and the first month of 2021. 

    The Bottom Line
    Garver, like Luis Arraez and Taylor Rogers, is a staple of the Twins. He’s another favorite who has given Twins fans unforgettable moments of cheer since his debut. He’s become a rock-solid defender and has combined it with a beautiful right-handed swing. 

    It’s always important to note that you are paying for the future in any discussion of a new contract. Garver has been great up to this point, but will he age well into his 30s? Can the Twins afford to invest in their catcher with so much uncertainty in the rotation?

    With an open DH spot in 2022, it’s conceivable that Garver will get to 500 plate appearances. What if he mashes, and the Twins risk losing him after 2023? Now could be the time to avoid that fate. Or maybe you ride out the next two years and move along at that point. 

    What do you think? Should the Twins extend Mitch Garver?

    Comment your thoughts below! 

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    I think it depends on if you see him as a catcher or DH in the future.  The Twins are pretty risk averse and Mitch hasn't been overly consistent (streaky) at the plate other than 2019.  I think they take the wait and see approach.  If he continues to perform I think they might be willing to do an extension.  If not I think they try and work out a trade.

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    Most indubitably.  Though 2022 is his age 31 season I think he has more than just a few good innings ahead of him behind the plate and provides excellent but streaky offense for a catcher. A 3-year deal with a 4th year option would be good for both sides.

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    I used to think this was an easy no.

    But the team has next to nobody else to spend money on any time soon. There aren't any young players that need to be extended in the next couple of years and free agency doesn't appear to be a priority at the moment.

    If it's not outrageous, go ahead and pay the guy.

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    Golly no. You have him for two more years and catchers age like fruit in the sun. Incrementally, you would be tying him down for age 33 and beyond. With resources seemingly so precious for this club, that seems ill-advised, especially given our abundance (Sano, Rooker, Arraez) of no-defense bats.  

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    I would be shopping him more actively than any other player on the roster. Nothing against Garver -- I really like him, in fact -- but he's already on the wrong side of 30 and plays perhaps the worst position for guys his age. I don't expect him to both available and productive past his current team control.

    Maybe he has lots of gas left in the tank and will prove me wrong, but I'd rather think like Tampa with him and cash in while we know the value is still there.

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    The points against extension are 

    1. Age
    2. Injury history
    3. DH already has a number of options and Catcher is where he has value

    Points for extension are

    1. Lack of belief in Jeffers
    2. It makes a stronger trade case and gets us a better return.
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    Be lucky to catch half the games in 2022. Can he play first? Of course, Sano is there right now and Kirilloff is a better longtertm choice. Sano is always the guy messing things up. Do you keep (and extend) Sano as your DH of the future?

     

    Donaldson is also a roster problem. How many games does he play at third base. Is he your part-time DH. Suddenly, where does Garver play if he is a part-time aging catcher.

     

    If anyone is looking for a catcher, especially coming out of spring training, he could be a prize trade chip. I would not fear to make a trade.

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    4 hours ago, DJL44 said:

    Hell, no

    I'll add a little to this. He's estimated to get $3M in arbitration this season and probably $6M in 2023. Why would you want to turn a 2 year $9M non-guaranteed contract into a 4 year $40M guaranteed contract? That's a 2 year $31M extension for 2024-25  (ages 33-34) which would make him one of the top 5 highest paid catchers in baseball. Assuming he is still productive two seasons from now they shouldn't have any problem to signing him to a 2 year $31M extension (or more likely 2 years - $20M) in October 2024. Your proposed extension would turn Garver from a trade asset to a liability.

    I'm not even convinced Garver will outproduce Jeffers this season. You can't be spending $15M on your backup catcher.

    If his cost is likely $29M over the next 4 years if you go year-to-year then the Twins should get a discount on the extension. Garver has yet to make much - 9th round pick with one arbitration season. I think they could get a 4 year deal done for $22M. Even then I would hesitate if I were running the Twins.

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    The only way you sign him is to just wrap up the arbitration years, but do not buy out any FA years.  I would not even buy out the arbitration years though. He is on the wrong side of 30 and will drop off production really fast, like most players but catchers generally drop off faster. 

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    Name me any catcher in the majors with as good of stats for what he is paid. Would we do like we did with the pitching and get a bunch of hapless players. Sorry for the play on words. But we need to spend the money trading up for quality not quantity. And who would we get to catch?

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    One more point. They say garver would have value as a dh. In two years who will we have as dh. Sano? Donaldson? They will both be gone. And we pay our backup catchers next to nothing. So add up the totals. Sano due for 14 million, Donaldson due 21 million. That obligation being gone then you can pay garver 10 plus million a year. Baseball in my mind is like anything else just crunch the number and becomes easier to figure out what to do. You still may not get your dream team. But that's life.

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    Only if they have no faith in Jeffers. And even then I'd make him prove he's healthy and can hit this year.


    Say what you will about "late bloomers" but they're the perfect deal for a budget conscious team: get his prime years on a rookie contract, them let him walk in his early 30s.

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    Would be interesting to approach on a 3 or 4 yr deal, if it was to pay a little more now to pay less later.  

    Like people have said he hasnt made much $ yet in his MLB career and isnt set to make a significant amount the next 2 yrs in arbitration and at 31 already catchers dont age well.  

    What would you think of a 8 million AAV for 3 or 4 yrs. paying a little more now for a little less later and cost certainty. 

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    Garver, is more than a 1 tool player, as he can play c, 1b &dh. How about signing him to a 3-4 year contract @ $9m-$10m per year. He will most likely have his injuries. That,s the risk of playing baseball as a catcher.

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    On 1/20/2022 at 8:49 AM, AceWrigley said:

    Most indubitably.  Though 2022 is his age 31 season I think he has more than just a few good innings ahead of him behind the plate and provides excellent but streaky offense for a catcher. A 3-year deal with a 4th year option would be good for both sides.

    I don't necessarily agree nor disagree with your take.  But I love the word indubitably!

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    It's really a moot conversation at this point. The question as presented and the responses suggested are dependent on the past CBA. When we know the rules going forward, we can respond with meaningful answers. 

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