Minnesota Twins: Did the Twins make the Wrong Call on Mitch Garver?
By Mason Keith
WOW, what a crazy way to celebrate the lockout being over. Teams are now able to construct their rosters after having been frozen for 99 days, and the Minnesota Twins have taken that to heart. Many big trades have happened (adding Sonny Gray, bringing in Isiah Kiner-Falefa, sending out Isiah Kiner-Falefa, trading away Josh Donaldson, and acquiring Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela).
But one trade has really bothered me: the first Isiah Kiner-Falefa trade-not because we acquired him then traded him-it’s because we lost Mitch Garver. The Minnesota Twins will regret making this trade in the long run, so let’s break down why.
The Minnesota Twins sent Mitch Garver, a move that could haunt them for a long time.
Not very many catchers can swing the stick quite like Mitch Garver. His 2019 campaign was a breakout year and while many doubt he can replicate those numbers (.575 xSLG, .404 WOBA, 49.1 Hard Hit%), he came pretty close in 2021.
His 92.3 MPH average exit velocity is the second highest mark of his career which is higher than 2019, while his max exit velocity is almost two MPH faster than 2019! His K% was at 29.2% as well, a good number (considering his 2020 number of 45.7%) that he was looking to improve in 2022 as well.
Where the Twins will regret losing Garver the most is with his defense. Garver ranked in the 93rd percentile of pitch framing in 2021 and his fielding percentage at Catcher was .998% (He made only 1 error in 451.2 innings played).
He battled injuries all of 2021, but he was more than productive on the field when healthy. He is a top 10 catcher in the game if he can just stay on the field. 29% of his career WAR came just from last season. Garver only had 207 AB and 53 hits. Imagine his production with double the ABs. How will they replace that lost production?
Maybe they can release the Kraken! After all of the wheeling and dealing, the Twins found their new catcher in Gary Sanchez. Yankees fans either worshipped the baby bomber or despised him for his lack of defense. The best way to judge Gary is by breaking down his numbers.
Comparing the same statcast data from Garver, Gary slashed a .452 XSLG, .314 WOBA, and a 42% Hard Hit rate. His overall exit velo of 89.5 was the lowest of his career. To me, this is already a major downgrade offensively. It’s an even bigger loss on defense.
Sanchez was in the 17th percentile for pitch framing, and his .994 fielding percentage (6 errors made in 879.1 innings played) were not better than Garver’s (though there’s some optimism from other fans), other than innings played. Is this catching downgrade a worthwhile sacrifice for the other trades?
So what else exactly did the Twins sacrifice? Losing Garver meant getting Kiner Falefa, which then led to him and Donaldson getting swapped for Gary and Gio. The key to these two different trades was to shed Donaldson’s contract.
The Twins knew the Yankees were interested in a SS with Kiner-Falefa in mind so why not take advantage of the situation and obtain control. The Twins positioned themselves to bully the bigger market into taking on an unwanted contract. This opportunity doesn’t come very often and the Twins knew that.
Could Kiner-Falefa have helped the 2022 Twins? Yes. Was he an actual targeted need to go get? Apparently not (though the Twins reportedly didn’t want to give him up). Third base has been the biggest question mark with Donaldson’s calf issues.
JD was expected to be the full time DH, but why pay a DH his salary? This move now allows the Twins to open up SS to many internal candidates (Miranda, Lewis, Martin, etc.). Gio Urshela has been a solid player in New York and has experience playing in the AL Central so this should be an easy transition for him and answer the question for third base.
Breaking Down the all of the Minnesota Twins deals together
If you are a Minnesota Twins fan, you should be excited right now. Byron Buxton is locked up as the cornerstone, and the front office is very active in trying to improve this team. As of now, pitching is still an issue, but it is getting better.
The lineup is scary good and many great prospects are on the rise. The current team looks like it can compete for a spot in the expanded playoffs, but more moves need to be made in regards to pitching.
Sonny Gray is an excellent start in trying to revamp the starting rotation. After trading Jose Berrios, the staff had no identity. Gray is a very efficient pitcher and should fare well in pitcher friendly parks of the AL Central. Losing Petty is going to hurt pretty bad in a few years, but the Twins FO does not care. They want to win right now, and this is the kind of move you make to do that.
Overall Grade: B
Trading Kiner-Falefa and Donaldson for Sanchez and Urshela was a mass of confusion from both sides. With a couple of days to breathe, the trade looks good for both sides. The Yankees have upgraded their lineup with JD and have filled the blatant hole at SS with Kiner-Falefa. The Twins get a solid undervalued player in Gio and get a chance to see if Gary can become his old self again.
Overall Grade: B+
Losing Mitch Garver is going to hurt for a long time. He is about to become a star in Texas. The Rangers have been very busy spending this past offseason to try and compete with an evolving AL West.
Many teams view the Astros window of dominance coming to a close so they are capitalizing. Mitch Garver will be a major key to this core and will be an All-Star in Arlington. Sorry Twins fans, this is your warning.
Overall Grade: D