Minnesota Twins: Grading the Isiah Kiner-Falefa Trade

New Minnesota Twins shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa follows through on a single. (Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports)
New Minnesota Twins shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa follows through on a single. (Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports) /

Since the lockout ended Thursday, teams across Major League Baseball have been moving quickly to try and get there teams ready for Spring Training and the regular season that was quickly approaching. The Minnesota Twins were slow to jump into that pool until early this morning:

With this trade, the team answers the question of who the starting shortstop will be in 2022 while also opening up several other questions about the team. Now that the deal is done, we’ll break down the three players in the deal and what it means for the Twins, starting with the player going out: Mitch Garver.

The Minnesota Twins sent Mitch Garver to the Texas Rangers for Isiah Kiner-Falefa and a prospect.

Texas Rangers get: C Mitch Garver

In order to bring in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the Twins sent away Mitch Garver in this deal, the team’s main starting catcher for the past five years. Garver has had some very good seasons over the past few years and his power and defense made him one of the best catchers in the league.

He had dealt with a lot of injury issues over the past two years and yes, he had a very tough 2020, but he was still a very strong catcher when completely healthy. In a league where talented catchers are becoming more and more rare, trading one away (especially one with two seasons of team control) seems to be a mistake.

This implies that the team is confident that Ryan Jeffers is ready for a bounce back year and that Ben Rortvedt can take enough of step to be a solid backup catcher, because there aren’t any prospects that can take over for them.

This has to be the biggest issue from the Twins perspective. While Garver has his issues, he was extremely good when healthy at a premium position. If Jeffers and Rortvedt aren’t completely ready, this could open a black hole in the team’s lineup. For the Twins to give him up they would need to get something strong in return.

Minnesota Twins get: SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, SP Ronny Henriquez

In return for Mitch Garver, the Twins brought back shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and pitching prospect Ronny Henriquez. One is a Gold Glove award winner and the the other is a Top 30 prospect, so why does it feel like they could have gotten more?

For starters, the Twins need starting pitchers, and Garver was seen as a potential trade chip. Now, the team has moved him for a player with some very real questions about his style of play and a prospect with potential but not a lot of success. Let’s look at what they actually got though.

In Kiner-Falefa, he’s a Gold Glove-winning shortstop with the ability to play third and catcher in pinch. He hits solidly for average (usually in the .265-.280 range), he’s got some decent speed, and he gets on base at a solid clip.

Ronny Henriquez finished last season as the 15th-ranked player in the Rangers’ system. His fastball can reach 98 but lives in the mid 90s, and he has a good slider and solid changeup. He’s a fine prospect who should be big league ready in the next two years, assuming he can limit the number of homers he allows.

Grading the Deal for the Minnesota Twins

This is a solid package at a position of need for the Twins, but the team needs starting pitching, and with enough shortstops on the market for the taking, the team could have added any of the low-end guys available and moved Garver for an arm. The issue isn’t so much with trading Garver, it’s with bringing back a glove-first shortstop.

Yes, they needed a shortstop, but the team could have easily added a similar player in the free agent market. Kiner-Falefa is a younger Andrelton Simmons, and they gave up an oft-injured, but extremely talented (arguably Top 10) catcher to get him. The Twins could have done a lot better here.

Grade: C-.

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