Twins catcher Mitch Garver set out to be an impact bat, and a catcher that his manager and pitching staff could trust behind the plate. Check and check.
Now, as the winter gets started and Garver hangs out with his wife and their two rescue pups, the national conversation turns to the business side of baseball. Free agents will find new homes, clubs will trade players, and they all will try to identify the ones around which they can build a winner.
Garver said this week that he’d entertain talks of a contract extension with the Twins, if that’s on the table this winter.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s something that would benefit both sides,” Garver said on the SKOR North Twins Show. “Financial security for both sides of the spectrum.”
“In one hand, the Twins want to know what they’re spending on their current payroll so it expands the free-agent market a little bit. And for a player like myself, that would mean a ton — for my family. And for the state of New Mexico to have a solidified Major League player, and really do something with my career. I think it’s something that would benefit both sides.”
After a winter working with former Twins catching coach Tanner Swanson and bench coach Bill Evers — to say nothing of the critical element of near-constant self-evaluation and work toward improvement — Garver had a great season in Minnesota. It paid off with a Silver Slugger award, so Major League managers around the game evidently took notice of the most dangerous hitter at the position. (Joe Mauer is the only other catcher in Twins history to win a Silver Slugger in the 40 years since the award was first handed out.)
Garver hit home run No. 268 this summer, the fateful blast that officially broke the all-time Major League team home run record in a single season. He also hit 30 more along the way, in just 359 plate appearances. He missed some time with a high-ankle sprain and was rested often throughout the year, and all told it was a remarkable season.
The Twins star catcher hit .273/.365/.630, which gives him one of the highest slugging percentages ever for a catcher, firmly in the top-10 of that list alongside great hitters like Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez. His .404 Weighted On-Base Average gives him the second-best offensive season for a catcher (minimum 100 plate appearances) since the Senators picked up and left D.C. to become the Twins. Mauer holds the No. 1 spot as well as Nos. 3, 4 and 5.
Rocco Baldelli, the Twins’ rookie skipper who has been nominated for A.L. Manager of the Year, came away impressed. “Garv had an amazing year,” Baldelli said last month. “A historically good year.”
Baldelli also noted what a strong season Jason Castro had, in the final year of his contract with the Twins, and the “admirable” job Willians Astudillo did in his time in catcher’s gear. That allowed the Twins to rest Garver, and it’s likely that we’re past the days of starting catchers squatting for 130 games in a season. “We were lucky to have that depth this year. It was definitely a strength for us,” Baldelli said. “We could rely on different guys on different days. Then when the other guy to the field he was ready play, physically and mentally. He was ready to go.”
Garver has another year before his arbitration years begin. So the Twins could choose to pay him, for example, $600,000 this year, and then start the annual salary arbitration process the year after that. He’s four years from being eligible for MLB free agency, so the clock is not exactly ticking loudly. Still, given his breakout season and the Twins need for top-shelf catching in their competitive window that has now begun, you could make a case for approaching Garver with a multi-year deal right now.
“Who knows where the talks will go,” Garver said. “If it happens that’s great. And if not, you know, we’ll go into that arbitration stage. At the end of the day it’s just about believing in yourself as a player and trusting the process. And hopefully along the way you make a good impact and win some ballgames.”