What’s the state of Mariners’ lineup with addition of Mitch Garver?

Dec 26, 2023, 3:18 PM

Seattle Mariners Garver Mitch...

Mitch Garver of the Texas Rangers hits a home run against the Toronto Blue Jays in 2023. (Cole Burston/Getty Images)

(Cole Burston/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are reportedly adding a big bat to the middle of their lineup in Mitch Garver, with a two-year, $24 million deal in place pending a physical, per multiple MLB insiders.

What’s the state of Seattle’s offense following the addition of Garver?

“This is a nice first move,” said Mariners insider Shannon Drayer of Seattle Sports during Tuesday’s edition of Bump and Stacy. “He absolutely does make this club better right now, and they need to keep going, obviously.”

Garver, who will turn 33 next month, is expected to be the regular designated hitter for the Mariners, which was his primary role for the World Series champion Texas Rangers in 2023. Drayer spoke about how that will impact what else the M’s will do this offseason as they look to improve an offense undergoing a fair amount of change.

Let’s break down a few things Drayer covered with hosts Michael Bumpus and Stacy Rost.

Is Garver the big offseason bat for Seattle Mariners?

“I mean, it could be one of two,” Drayer answered to the question from Rost. “I think that there are possibilities on the trade market, and two would be great. But yes, he’s obviously a middle of the order hitter.”

Garver has strong numbers to support the idea that he can be a solid DH next season, but there’s a big question about his durability. He has played 100 games in a season just once, and lower-body injuries limited him to 87 games played last season.

“The key with him, we all know the problem has been keeping him healthy. And I don’t know that you can project out what he has done basically in half-seasons and double it and say that’s what he would be in a full season,” Drayer said. “You don’t know that, but you still think he’s going to be pretty good. I mean, it’s not a fluke, the numbers and the consistency that he has had when he has been on the field.”

Those numbers include the fifth-best OPS (.870) among right-handed hitters in the American League with at least 200 at-bats in 2023, and a 138 wRC+ that would have led all Mariners hitters last season.

“So you’re adding something significant,” Drayer said. “… He’s not a platoon guy; he hits both right and left-handed pitchers. So he is going to be hopefully a steadying force that you can insert in the lineup every day.”

Garver a true DH for Seattle Mariners

There’s a hope that Garver could stay healthy in 2024 by limiting his time in the field. He is naturally a catcher, but the Mariners have Cal Raleigh behind the plate and acquired veteran Seby Zavala as an experienced backup option earlier this offseason. Garver appeared behind the plate in 28 games last season.

“Hopefully not catching very much, if at all, is going to help extend that,” Drayer said. “He didn’t catch a terrible amount last year. … It helps when you can tell him at the beginning from the get-go, you know, maybe you can put away that catcher’s gear for now. We’ll have to see how much they actually count on him to catch. I’m thinking it would be more of a third catcher situation… I know they haven’t brought him in to solely be Cal Raleigh’s backup. That’s kind of the risk-reward in this situation. … The reward being if you could get 130 games out of him, that would be a very significant upgrade to what you’ve had in the past (at DH) and you’re starting to look a little bit more Nelson Cruz-ish at that point.”

Where is the outfield situation?

The Mariners’ outfield seems unsettled, with neither Jarred Kelenic nor Teoscar Hernández coming back to assist All-Star center fielder Julio Rodríguez. Is this a sign that the M’s will run with second-year player Dominic Canzone as an everyday outfielder?

“I’ve kind of been doing lineups and what it would look like, and I do not for a minute believe that they’re done – one way or another, they’re going to add at least one more bat,” Drayer said. “I do think that Canzone is somebody that they did acquire to play every day. Now be it next year… or the year after that, that I really don’t know, but Canzone is an interesting player, an interesting bat, and we just haven’t seen enough of him to know what he is right now at the big league level.”

Canzone was part of the three-player return from Arizona in a deadline deal last July, but the lefty hitter didn’t play much after Kelenic returned from an injury. He had five home runs in 44 games with Seattle, including one memorable shot off the windows in right field at T-Mobile Park.

“He has not played very much in the bigs and there are some intriguing skills with him. There’s also a guy that likes to walk but a guy that can hit it off the Hit it Here Cafe, which was kind of a surprise,” Drayer said “We saw him go kind of really go long distance on some of the home runs that he hits. So right now if the season were to start today, yes, he would definitely be in the outfield, and I think there’s a good chance he’d be in the outfield even if they do add another corner outfielder – probably a right fielder. So I do think he’s in there, but it’ll be a lot more palatable to have a young player, essentially a rookie in the outfield, if you have a veteran to put next to Julio.”

Garver’s T-Mobile history

If there’s one thing that gave M’s fans a scare after news of Garver’s reported addition broke, it’s that he’s hitless in his career at Seattle’s home ballpark. That’s right – Garver is 0 for 31 all-time at T-Mobile Park.

That’s obviously a small sample size, and Drayer explained why it doesn’t strike her as a cause for concern.

“I’m gonna guess it wasn’t in his head because he’s signed the contract, or he’s about to sign the contract,” she said. “I don’t put too much into that. … He’s one of those guys who’s pull power, and he is pretty much a straight pull hitter… It goes long distances, so I’m not too worried about that.”

Listen to the full Bump and Stacy conversation with Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Mitch Garver in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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What’s the state of Mariners’ lineup with addition of Mitch Garver?