Rangers catcher Mitch Garver opts for surgery, spring return

Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

ARLINGTON, Texas — Mitch Garver is a catcher who can hit, which is why the Texas Rangers acquired him. He doesn’t want to just hit, which is why he will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon in his throwing arm.

Garver has been limited to being a designated hitter and unable to catch or throw since early May because of the right forearm issue that was bothering him long before then. The 31-year-old is scheduled for surgery so that he has time to fully recover to be back behind the plate in spring training.

“There was a slight chance that I could push it back to the end of the year and maybe sacrifice a few months of catching in 2023, but still have the bat in the lineup,” Garver said. “I feel like if I want to be the player I want to be, I like being behind the plate and I can bring more to the team that way.”

Texas acquired Garver from Minnesota at the start of spring training when displaced shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa was traded to the Twins. Minnesota had drafted Garver out of the University of New Mexico in 2013, and he made his big league debut with them in 2017.

After getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to drive in the first run for Texas in a 6-5 series-opening win, Garver had an RBI single and walked in a 9-7 victory Saturday. Manager Chris Woodward said Garver would also play in the series finale.

Garver is hitting .211 with 10 homers and 24 RBIs in his 53 games. After he last caught May 8, he went on the injured list because of his forearm. He missed three more games at the end of May with a left knee sprain, then had a 10-day stay on the COVD-19-related IL last month.

“It’s a mental grind. It’s tough being hurt. The sport’s extremely hard as it is already, and to try to play through an injury makes it even harder,” said Garver, who has been going through daily treatments for 2 1/2 months. “I haven’t been 100% all year and that’s frustrating. It’s something that I couldn’t have predicted, and we did our best to manage it.”

Garver had a breakout season in 2019 with 31 homers in 93 games while winning a Silver Slugger award, but had injury issues since then. He struggled through the pandemic-shortened season in 2020, then missed most of 2021 after taking a foul tip to the groin area and needing surgery.

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said Garver was always productive when on the field, while also being a reliable teammate and good human being.

“If you just look at what he does when he plays, I mean, he’s a very solid contributor behind the plate. He has great at-bats, he’s on base all the time, he’s a menace against left-handed pitching,” Baldelli said. “It’s hard to look at what he’s done when he’s been on the field and say he’s not one of the better catchers in baseball.”

Woodward said the Rangers have seen spurts and glimpses of the Garver they intended to have hitting in the middle of their lineup. The manager could also sense the catcher being bothered over time that he couldn’t consistently perform the way he knows that he can.

“I hate it because I’d rather write him in the lineup all the time,” Woodward said. “But this gives a little bit of a buffer to if there’s any kind of setback or anything, he’s going to be ready for spring training, like full-go.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.