What stands out as Mariners make Mitch Garver signing official

Dec 28, 2023, 11:53 AM

Seattle Mariners Mitch Garver...

Mitch Garver of the Texas Rangers rounds the bases after hitting a home run on Aug. 18, 2023. (Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

(Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

The biggest offensive free-agent signing to date by the current Seattle Mariners front office regime is now official, as the team announced the addition of Mitch Garver late Thursday morning.

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

The Garver move has been known since Sunday, when the news of a two-year, $24 million deal between the Mariners and the veteran slugger was reported by several MLB insiders, the first being ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

It’s the first multi-year contract the Mariners have signed a hitter to out of free agency since Jerry Dipoto joined the team as general manager at the end of the 2015 season, and the reported average annual value of $12 million is the highest over the same period of time.

While we may have expected Thursday’s official announcement, the accompanying press release by the Mariners did reveal a few things. Here’s a look at what stands out.

Put away the catcher’s gear

While Garver’s primary position is catcher, the prevailing thought about his role with the Mariners has been that he will be the team’s everyday designated hitter. After all, the M’s have a borderline All-Star candidate behind the plate already in Cal Raleigh, and they acquired veteran backup catcher Seby Zavala earlier this offseason in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The first reference of Seattle’s press release announcing the contract with Garver calls him a “catcher/designated hitter,” but a few more paragraphs down, he’s referred to as a “6-foot-1, 220-pound designated hitter.”

The Mariners haven’t had a true, entrenched DH since the days of Nelson Cruz, who last played for the team in 2018. But Dipoto, now Seattle’s president of baseball operations, indicated to reporters this offseason that the team was rethinking its philosophy on the position.

“We’d love to have a full-time DH, a banger who just goes out and bangs,” Dipoto said in November.

Garver fits that bill, especially considering Seattle’s current depth behind the plate, plus Garver’s age (he turns 33 in January) and injury history (hasn’t played 100 games in a single season since 2018).

Why Garver was the Seattle Mariners’ man

The press release included a quote from Dipoto, which focused mainly on what Garver adds to Seattle’s lineup and clubhouse. It also signals just how high of a priority signing Garver was for Seattle this offseason, and precisely why.

“Mitch is a hitter we had targeted from the start of the offseason,” Dipoto said. “He’s a proven winner who brings a strong combination of zone discipline, on-base skills, and power to the middle of our lineup, while also adding tough to find depth at key positions.”

Drayer: Digging into Seattle Mariners’ addition of Mitch Garver

Let’s break that second line down.

Proven winner? Garver was on the World Series champion Texas Rangers last season after previously appearing in the postseason in 2019 and 2020 with the Twins. He even hit one home run in each of the ALDS, ALCS and World Series to help the Rangers win the title.

Zone discipline? In 2023, Garver ranked in the 98th percentile in chase rate (how often a hitter swings at pitches outside of the strike zone), per Statcast.

On-base skills? His .370 on-base percentage would have tied for 14th in MLB last season if he had enough plate appearances to qualify (his 344 PAs were less than 100 short of the qualifying number).

Power? He had 19 home runs in 87 games in 2023, averaging one homer per every 15.58 at-bats. That’s higher than any other player on the Mariners’ roster and would have ranked 14th (again) in MLB among qualifying players. His barrel rate was also in the 83rd percentile last season, per Statcast.

Not just a two-year deal

The press release includes one true revelation, which is that the contract with Garver is a two-year deal with an additional “mutual option that runs through the 2026 season.” That means that after the 2025 campaign, Garver could play one more season with the Mariners if both he and the team agree. The dollar figure of that option, or the contract in general, has not been revealed by the Mariners, which is typical practice.

Seattle Mariners likely not done after Garver addition, so what’s next?

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What stands out as Mariners make Mitch Garver signing official