May we always remember Christmas Eve 2023 as a historic night in Mariners land. After as frustrating of an offseason start as we could possibly imagine (September choke, 54% jokes, Rangers vs Astros ALCS, being called broke every day), Jerry Dipoto and company stun their fans with an early Christmas present, Mitch Garver.
Garver is a 6-1, 220 lbs catcher and designated hitter entering his 8th season and age 33 season. Garver is one of the most underrated hitters in the league when healthy. A career OPS+ of 123, Garver hits like a cornerstone bat that is desperately needed on this roster. In 2023, Garver slashed .270/.370/.500 with 19 HR’s, 11 2B’s and 44 BB’s in just 87 games, good for a 134 OPS+, which would have been tops for the 2023 Mariners.
In the Rangers World Series run, Garver hit .226 in 53 AB’s, with 6 BB’s and 3 HR’s. His mammoth grand slam in game 2 of the ALDS blew open the series against Baltimore and his clutch 2-run single in the 7th inning of game 5 in the World Series proved to be the series-clinching hit.
So if this guy is so productive and powerful, why is he signing in Seattle on a pretty reasonable 2 year, $24 million dollar deal? Well, remember when I said Garver played in only 87 games this past season? That's the most he has played in a season since 93 games in 2019. In fact, 102 games is the most that Mitch has played in, all the way back to 2018. If Garver were to play 130-140 games a season, you're talking about a perennial all-star that would be blasting 30+ homers a year.
While the injury history is a very real concern for a team that needs multiple new additions to all produce considering what Seattle has traded or let walk out the door, Seattle is a great fit. While his hitting is extremely valuable to the success of the M’s 2024 season, his catching ability is below average if I'm putting it nicely during the holiday season.
I would much rather see Mitch Garver never step foot behind the plate this season , instead giving backup catcher duties to Blake Hunt or Seby Zavala than risk losing Garver’s offense for an extended period. He finally looked healthy, and it showed in 2023.
Is Mitch Garver as splashy of an addition as say. Jorge Soler or JD Martinez? No, but his 89th percentile Batting Run Value and 90th percentile BB Rate according to Baseball Savant shows a player that is equal or better than those all-star hitters. Barring a trade or another free agent addition, Garver is going to be hitting cleanup for the Mariners on Opening Day against the Red Sox.
Speaking of other additions, while Mitch Garver is a really strong addition, the job is not done. Garver should not be expected to be the only premier addition for a club looking to get back to the playoffs in 2024. He's a great start, but learn from the Teoscar Hernandez mistake, and go add two more pieces to truly make this team a contender to win not just the AL West, but get to the Fall Classic.
Welcome to Seattle Mitch, it's great to have a legit DH back in the city that made the position famous. Now, let's just wrap you in some bubble wrap and keep you safe till spring!