The Minnesota Twins needed a shortstop and the Texas Rangers needed a catcher. On Saturday, the two sides got together for a three-player trade that sends shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa and a prospect to Minnesota for catcher Mitch Garver. Both teams have announced the trade.
There was some thought Kiner-Falefa, 27 later this month, would remain with the Rangers following top prospect Josh Jung's recent shoulder surgery. Kiner-Falefa won a Gold Glove at third base in 2020 before shifting over to shortstop in 2021. He was made expendable by the club's Corey Seager and Marcus Semien signings prior to the lockout.
Kiner-Falefa is a standout defender with a light bat (career .265/.316/.354) and speed who replaces Andrelton Simmons for the Twins, and will serve as a stopgap until top prospects Royce Lewis and Austin Martin are ready. He is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2023, so he is not a one-year rental for Minnesota. Kiner-Falefa is a two-year infield addition.
The Twins have two MLB-ready young catchers in Ryan Jeffers and Ben Rortvedt, making the 31-year-old Garver expendable. He has dealt with numerous injuries the last two seasons, though he's also hit .254/.348/.546 with 46 home runs in 184 games since 2019. That makes him one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. Like Kiner-Falefa, Garver is under team control through 2023.
With Garver joining Seager and Semien (and Kole Calhoun), the rebuilt Texas lineup will look something like this:
- DH Willie Calhoun
- 2B Marcus Semien
- SS Corey Seager
- C Mitch Garver
- 1B Nathaniel Lowe
- CF Adolis García
- RF Kole Calhoun
- LF Nick Solak
- 3B Andy Ibáñez
The Rangers still have a lot of work to do on their pitching staff, though the lineup is much more formidable than it was a year ago, when Texas ranked dead last in the American League in runs scored. Jung's injury will keep him out until at least August, so Texas could still bring in a short-term third baseman, like Jonathan Villar or Travis Shaw.
The prospect, 21-year-old righty Ronny Henriquez, ranked as the No. 15 prospect in the Rangers system prior to the trade, according to MLB.com. He had a 5.04 ERA in 69 2/3 innings at Double-A in 2021, and MLB.com's scouting report says he "shows flashes of three plus pitches."
The Twins went 73-89 in an "everything that can go wrong will go wrong" season in 2021, though they have talent and the AL Central is not a powerhouse division. The Rangers went 60-102 a year ago and are making big moves this winter and in effort to contender sooner rather than later.