Mariners sign Mitch Garver

Sailors and Mitch Garver They agreed to a two-year, $24 million contract, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan (via X). The deal will become official when Garver passes his physical. Garver is represented by ISE Baseball.

While Cal Raleigh remains Seattle's best reliever, Garver gives the Mariners a standout bat who can serve as a backup catcher and a regular presence at designated hitter. That was a role Garver filled with aplomb with the Rangers last season, hitting .270/.370/.500 with 19 homers in over 344 plate appearances while serving mostly as a DH to allow All-Star Jonah Heim Regular time behind the plate. Garver was then the exclusive first choice DH in the Rangers' postseason run, hitting .226/.317/.434 with three homers over 60 PA to help Texas capture its first World Series title.

It wasn't exactly an ideal season for Garver, as he missed nearly two full months early in the season with a left knee sprain. This continues the pattern of injuries that have plagued Garver throughout his career, as he has played in just 232 of a possible 546 games since the start of the 2020 season. These health issues (ranging from forearm surgery, intercostal strains, and knee, hip and back issues) have contributed to Garver's limited usage. Increasingly at catcher, a move to a DH role would help him stay on the field with more money. Regularity.

This made for something of a difficulty entering free agency for Garver, because while he was technically the best catcher on the market, it was risky for the team to rely on him for anything more than a timeshare at the position. As MLBTR's Nick Deeds suggested back in October, Garver's ideal landing spot might be “a team with another reliable option to catch, so Garver can have a clear path to DH playing time and face less pressure to fit in regularly behind the plate.”

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The Mariners fit the project perfectly, as Raleigh has established himself as a No. 1 catcher and a big-time powerhouse over the past two seasons. The switch-hitting Raleigh has much better numbers against right-handers than against left-handers, which matches well with right-handed hitting Garver's ability to mix up left-handed pitching.

Tom Murphy signed with the Giants last week, though the M's appear prepared for that departure by acquiring catcher Seby Zavala as part of the Eugenio Suarez trade with the Diamondbacks. If Garver were to primarily be a DH, the Mariners might still have room for Zavala on the roster to serve as a traditional backup catcher. This could avoid some roster maneuvering since Zavala is out of minor league options, so the Mariners would have to designate him for assignment and put him on the waiver wire if they want to send him to the minor leagues.

Seattle has been known to be looking for a solid bat for its DH spot, and a right-handed hitter in particular to help balance the lineup. Names like Jorge Soler, JD Martinez and Rhys Hoskins were reportedly on the Mariners' radar, but Garver will now join the roster on a two-year deal. It's a little less than the three-year $39 million MLBTR expected for Garver, though it's still a good payday for players teams might have viewed as more of a DH than a regular backup.

Adding a big-time bat at all costs also helps change the narrative of what has been a downer for Mariners fans. The Mariners are set to take full ownership of regional sports network ROOT Sports Northwest on January 1, and the associated additional costs are said to have limited the team's ability to spend on player salaries. President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto said in early December that the Mariners' payroll would rise from an estimated $140 million figure starting in 2023, yet most of the club's moves before signing Garver were designed to cut costs. The Suarez deal removed a significant salary from the books, and then Seattle parted with a lot of money in a five-player swap with the Braves that saw Jared Kelenic dealt essentially as a way to unload the contracts of Marco Gonzalez and Evan White.

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