Rangers trade INF Kiner-Falefa to Twins for catcher Garver
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the starting shortstop for the Texas Rangers who was supplanted by the blockbuster addition of Corey Seager, was traded Saturday to the Minnesota Twins for catcher Mitch Garver.
Texas also sent minor league right-hander Ronny Henriquez to Minnesota a day before the mandatory reporting date for players following the end of Major League Baseball’s 99-day lockout.
Kiner-Falefa was a Gold Glove third baseman during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, after which the Rangers said he would replace Elvis Andrus as their starting shortstop. Andrus, the starter for 12 seasons and only remaining player 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.
“We knew we were going to have some good decisions to make. That’s what this is,” Rangers president Jon Daniels said from the team’s spring training complex in Surprise, Arizona. “This is us looking at our options, knowing we’ve got this other group (of young players) coming, we’ve got these two All-Stars in the middle of the diamond, and that we could acquire a player that is pretty close to All-Star status.”
It seemed that Kiner-Falefa would get the opportunity to be the Rangers’ third baseman again this season, especially after top prospect Josh Jung had shoulder surgery last month. Now Kiner-Falefa, the Hawaii native who turns 27 later this month, will be at his preferred position with the Twins.
Daniels said numerous teams called to inquire about Kiner-Falefa as a shortstop. The team president noted the unique timing of the “kind of a winter meetings-type deal made in spring training,” and said there had been some conversations about such a deal before the lockout began.
Minnesota 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 injury issues the past two years. He struggled through the pandemic season in 2020, then missed most of 2021 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 when he first got to the major leagues 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.
Daniels said the intention is for Garver to be their starting catcher, but that he could also get some time at first base and designated hitter. Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim, the switch-hitting rookie the Rangers got from Oakland in the Andrus deal, split catching duties last season.
Andy Ibanez and Yonny Hernandez, both rookies last season who started multiple infield positions, will go into spring training at the top of the depth chart at third base.
The 21-year-old Henriquez, who was added to the 40-man roster last November, combined to go 5-7 with a 4.71 ERA and 105 strikeouts over 93 2-3 innings in 21 games (16 starts) for High-A Hickory and Double-A Frisco last season.
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell contributed to this report.
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