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Mariners to sign Mitch Garver to 2-year, $24M contract

All I want for Christmas is...well, okay, sure, you

World Series - Arizona Diamondbacks v. Texas Rangers - Game Two Photo by Mary DeCicco/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Mariners’ inactivity drought is over, and in the most Jerry Dipoto of fashion, it comes on Christmas Eve, when many of us are nestled snugly in our beds for a long winter’s nap, kerchief, cap, things of that nature. Earlier tonight Jeff Passan broke the news that the Mariners are set to sign catcher/DH Mitch Garver two a two-year, $24M contract. That’s the largest contract given out to a free agent hitter in the Dipoto era, and hopefully wipes away any memory of previous record holder AJ Pollock’s brief, unhappy tenure with the organization.

Garver you will remember from the World Series-winning Texas Rangers lineup, or perhaps from his longer tenure as a Minnesota Twin. While the 31-year-old is mostly known as being a backstop, he’s gotten pretty banged up back there over his professional tenure: 2023 saw him miss the first two months of the season with a knee sprain, while his 2022 campaign ended abruptly with flexor tendon surgery on his throwing arm. A back issue, intercostal strain, ankle sprain, and the always-painful-sounding groin contusion have also limited Garver’s time on the field, so transitioning him out from behind the dish seems like a solid plan, and something the Mariners are well-equipped to do with Cal Raleigh holding down primary catching duties (here we are legally required to mention Seby Zavala is also on the roster as a backup catcher).

Garver’s appeal by contrast to several of the other righty bats on the free agent market stems from his ability to get on base at a high rate for his entire career. Garver’s career walk rate is 11.1% and is around 12% over the last three years. Though he’s not Willians Astudillo, his strikeout rate is roughly average by and large, making for a balanced offensive profile that should lengthen Seattle’s lineup night in and night out. Though Garver has been comfortably above-average against righties (114 wRC+ for his career), he’s particularly potent against southpaws, with a 139 wRC+ in his career against lefties. That’s particularly important in a Seattle lineup which has leaned on Raleigh heavily, but would rather see him bat from his stronger lefty side, all things equal. One thing to note beyond the health issues that have harangued Garver is that between injuries and the typical cadence of catching, Garver has never had more than 359 plate appearances in a season, and has never appeared in more than 103 games. If Seattle intends to deploy Garver as a DH quite often, he’ll be pushing well past his prior limits. However, with less defensive responsibilities, Garver can concentrate on what he does best: rake.