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Rangers upgrade to receiver in the trade of Mitch Garver at the price of versatile Isiah Kiner-Falefa

SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Rangers have always praised Isiah Kiner-Falefa’s versatility, but that’s kind of ridiculous. In four months, he went from shortstop to possible utility player at third base.

And then on Saturday, they moved it one more time: To Minnesota.

Rangers don’t mess around. Chris Young and Jon Daniels are remaking the list and you better not get caught. Less than 48 hours after baseball’s lockdown ended, the most active team of the offseason shook things up again, this time to improve what had been one of baseball’s least offensive catching units. caught Mitch Garver, who leads all MLB catchers (minimum 1,000 plate appearances) over the past five years in OPS by sending Kiner-Falefa and prospect pitcher Ronny Henriquez to the Twins.

Garver, 31, has an .835 OPS since making his MLB debut in 2017. He hit 31 homers in 2019 and has averaged one homer per 14.8 at-bats per season for the past three years. His biggest problem has been some really unfortunate injuries, like the fetid bullet last year that caused a “groin bruise”, led to surgery and cost him two months. Over the same three-year period, by the way, Rangers ranked last in position in OPS at .597, according to Fangraphs Rangers excelled in pitch framing for strikes, but oversized offense is even more valuable.

“We recognized the value of having [Kiner-Falefa] play third base,” Young, the general manager, said. “Having said that, I think in assessing the catching situation, the catching market and how we view Mitch Garver in terms of adjusting our team , that [trade] made sense in many ways.

Says Daniels: “There are only a limited number of guys like that in the game.”

After losing 102 games in a year to find answers, Daniels and Young — with the help of more than $500 million in ownership commitments — decided to raise the bar with every move they made. were doing. it’s not just about bettering last year’s record, but adding top talent with every move.

They signed Marcus Semien and Corey Seager to redo the midfielder. They chased Clayton Kershaw as hard as they could, but how can you convince the Dodgers’ greatest pitcher since Sandy Koufax to leave LA. They quickly pivoted back to discussions about Garver, which had actually started just before the lockout. Rangers’ movements were so fast and furious in the hours leading up to the lockdown that they had to reassess the situation. Nearly 100 days of work freezes gave them plenty of time to do so.

When this season kicks off on April 8, it’s entirely possible Rangers will only have two of the 10 2021 season-opening starters on the roster. here’s the start of the week – only 11 of the 26 players featured in last year’s opener are still on the 40-man roster.

All of this was necessary.

Next questions: But didn’t manager Chris Woodward proclaim Kiner-Falefa the team’s third baseman with resounding approval only on Friday afternoon? And with Kiner-Falefa gone and Josh Jung out the most, if not all, of the season, who in Adrian Beltré name will play third?

Short answers: Yes. And it’s really not that important.

“We are constantly trying to improve the club. Sometimes you have to [part with] good people to upgrade the way you want,” Woodward said. “To do that, there is a price. We were ready to pay it. [Garver] is an offensive juggernaut at the receiver.

“[Kiner-Falefa] still has it,” Woodward said of his endorsement. “Isiah was my first call after the lockdown ended. He deserved it. He was our heart and our soul. I wanted him to know how much I appreciate him. a good player and a leader. Nothing has changed in my eyes about him. I never want to bet against him again.”

But while Kiner-Falefa won a gold glove at No. 3, he has a career OPS of .670. There may be more offensively. Given Kiner-Falefa’s conduct, there probably is. Either way, it’s a full score below league average in Rules of Offense.

As for the third goal this year, look, not everything can be settled in a year. The team’s mantra is to make smart long-term decisions to significantly improve the club. Jung remains the third baseman of the future. Because of that, they’re not “likely to make a serious run against free agent Kris Bryant. They’ll check the bottom of the free agent market, give overperforming Andy Ibáñez plenty of opportunities before taking a mid-season look at any of the guys acquired for Joey Gallo: Josh Smith and Ezequiel Duran, or Davis Wendzel.

At receiver, last year’s co-starters Jose Trevino and Jonah Heim will battle for the backup position. Either would be a solid replacement. Heim might have the advantage because he’s a power hitter. Prospect Sam Huff, he of unfathomable raw power, who didn’t catch at all last year due to knee surgery, won’t be guaranteed a trip to the majors as soon as he will prove that he is in good health.

“We’re creating a roster full of competition,” Woodward said. “All these guys aren’t afraid of competition. That’s what we want. That’s what good teams have. These guys just have to perform and things will happen on their own.” “

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