The more and more I think about whether Aaron Judge or Clay Holmes or Nestor Cortes is the Yankees’ MVP, the more and more I wonder if it is Mitch Garver.
Garver just might be the most important player to the construction of the 2022 Yankees. Skeptical? OK, let’s follow the bouncing Garver:
1. The Twins had been discussing a trade that would send Garver to the Rangers before the lockout and resumed those conversations when the freeze concluded. It was, in fact, the first post-lockout trade: Garver to Texas for Ronny Henriquez and Isiah Kiner-Falefa.
That frustrated the Yankees. They also had been trying to land Kiner-Falefa from the Rangers. Before the lockout, Texas had invested a half-billion dollars in free agents Corey Seager and Marcus Semien. That meant Kiner-Falefa, who had been the Rangers’ 2021 shortstop, had to move to third. Texas’ top prospect, Josh Jung, needed shoulder surgery, so the hot corner was open for Kiner-Falefa, but the Rangers still viewed him as expandable and valued the offense that Garver could provide behind the plate to pair with a defense-minded catchers Jonah Heim or Jose Trevino.
After Minnesota acquired Kiner-Falefa, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman contacted the Twins to inquire about the shortstop. Minnesota was planning on making him the starting shortstop after free agent Andrelton Simmons signed with the Cubs. But the conversations netted an alluring potential for the Twins — that to gain access to Kiner-Falefa and catcher Ben Rortvedt, the Yankees would take on all of the $50 million owed to Josh Donaldson. Minnesota wanted nothing to do with that contract or the person attached to that contract any longer.
With Garver gone, the Twins needed a catching partner for Ryan Jeffers and a stopgap shortstop until their touted prospect Royce Lewis was ready. The Yankees had Gary Sanchez, and Gio Urshela was about to do in New York (hold the position until either prospect Oswald Peraza or Anthony Volpe was ready) what Minnesota required.
So the sides made the trade. Because Garver had gone to the Rangers, Kiner-Falefa was now the Yankees’ shortstop.
2. Rortvedt injured his oblique and was never a factor in spring training. The Yankees suddenly needed a catching partner for Kyle Higashioka and had talked to Texas previously because the Rangers had Trevino and Heim — the kind of defense-first receivers they now favored — plus a prospect, Sam Huff, near ready to play.
With Garver as their frontline catcher, the Rangers had even more inventory. So when the Yankees offered the big arm of Albert Abreu, out of options and not a certainty to make their major league roster, plus Robby Ahlstrom, Texas was willing to move Trevino.
Because Garver had gone to the Rangers, Trevino was now a Yankees catcher.
3. On May 9, Garver incurred a right forearm flexor strain and was placed on the injured list, with Huff taking his place. The Rangers recognized that Garver could return more quickly from the IL if they were willing to just use him as a designated hitter while he continued to build up arm strength to catch again.
Matt Carpenter was on a minor league contract with the Rangers and there were all kinds of infield and DH blocks to his joining the major league roster. But when he heard that Garver was going to be added to the blocks, as the full-time DH, that was just too much for him. Garver returned to the Texas lineup as the DH on May 19, the same day Carpenter asked for and received his release from his minor league contract.
He returned to his Fort Worth home to wait to see if a major league job somewhere would open. The Yankees had pursued Carpenter in the offseason with a minor league pact before he decided, if he was going to play minor league ball, to do it as close to home as possible. But the Yankees called again, and when Giancarlo Stanton joined Donaldson on the injured list, they had a major league roster spot for Carpenter.
So as with Kiner-Falefa and Trevino, because Garver had gone to the Rangers, Carpenter was a Yankee.
OK, Judge is obviously the Yankees’ MVP — arguably the AL MVP (though I think that was the Guardians’ Jose Ramirez in the back of the room saying to hold his beer). But Kiner-Falefa and Trevino have been valuable to improving the Yankees’ defense and contact at the plate while Carpenter has been — at minimum — a momentary burst of power and positive energy.
That all has made Mitch Garver deeply valuable to the 2022 Yankees.