Rangers trade INF Kiner-Falefa to Twins for catcher Garver

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The Texas Rangers have traded Isiah Kiner-Falefa, their starting shortstop last season who was supplanted by the blockbuster addition of Corey Seager, to the Minnesota Twins for catcher Mitch Garver.

Texas also sent minor league pitcher Ronny Henriquez to Minnesota in the deal Saturday, the day before the mandatory reporting date for players following the end of Major League Baseball’s 99-day lockout.

Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove playing third base during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season for the Rangers, who announced after that season that he would move to shortstop. Elvis Andrus, the starting shortstop for 12 seasons and the only remaining players from their two World Series teams, was traded to Oakland before spring training last year.

Just before the MLB lockout began Dec. 2, the Rangers signed All-Star shortstop Seager to a $325 million, 10-year contract and Gold Glove second baseman Marcus Semien to a $175 million, seven-year deal.

It appeared that Kiner-Falefa would get the opportunity to be their starting third baseman again this season, especially after top prospect Josh Jung had shoulder surgery last month. Now it looks like Kiner-Falefa, the Hawaii native who turns 27 later this month, will be at his preferred position of shortstop in Minnesota.

The Twins had a hole at shortstop after letting Andrelton Simmons leave in free agency. One of their best hitters, Jorge Polanco, broke in as a shortstop but has since moved to second base, where the Twins would prefer to keep him.

Garver had a breakout season in 2019 with 31 homers in 93 games while winning a Silver Slugger award, but the 31-year-old catcher has had injurie issues the past two years. He struggled through the pandemic season in 2020, then missed most of the 2021 season after taking a foul tip to the groin area and needing surgery.

Kiner-Falefa is a .265 career hitter over the past four seasons. The Rangers sometimes used him as a catcher on the major league level as a way of getting him into the lineup. He hit .271 with eight homers and 53 RBIs in 158 games last season.

Garver hit .256 with 13 homers and 34 RBIs in 68 games for the Twins last season. In 309 games over the past five seasons for Minnesota, he hit .256 with 53 homers and 154 RBIs.