Mitch Garver could see it coming in May — he had seen it before in 2018 and sensed it could happen again: if the Minnesota Twins didn’t turn things around quickly, the team would be picked apart at the trade deadline.
Indeed, that’s what happened in late July. Nelson Cruz was shipped out. José Berríos, J.A. Happ and Hansel Robles followed.
As the Twins plot their course moving forward, the catcher wonders often about his own future. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2024 season and with the Twins’ direction uncertain — at least publicly — could he be dealt next?
“I think about it every night,” Garver said. “But, it’s hard to keep those thoughts aside because I still have a job to do. I have a big offseason in front of me with my family, and we want to enjoy every part of that. Can’t look too far into the future. But yes, it could go different ways. We don’t really know exactly what’s going to happen.”
Garver’s 2021 season has been, as he put it, “wrecked” by injuries. Garver took a foul tip to the groin on June 1. It required emergency surgery and the catcher didn’t return until July 19. The 30-year-old catcher returned to the injured list on Aug. 27 with low back tightness, which kept him out of action until Tuesday.
All told, he has played in just 63 games this season.
“At least from the opportunities that I had, I think I did a lot of them,” Garver said. “The time I was healthy, I think I produced pretty well. I was able to perform at the level I wanted.”
He just wasn’t healthy as often as he would have liked to be.
Garver, rebounding from a truncated 2020 season in which he dealt with an injury and only played in 23 games, entered Thursday hitting .251 with a .358 on-base percentage and .529 slugging percentage, spending parts of the season looking much like the guy who won a Silver Slugger Award in 2019.
“Statistically he’s probably one of the best offensive catchers in the game when he’s healthy,” third baseman Josh Donaldson said. “ … A lot of teams don’t get a lot of production from that position, and he’s one of those spots to where we normally feel like we have an advantage from the offensive side when he’s in the game.”
Catcher Ryan Jeffers is both younger and under club control for longer than Garver. The Twins entered this season planning on splitting playing time between the two about 50-50. Under that arrangement, both of their numbers suffered at the beginning of the year before the club eventually sent Jeffers to Triple-A.
How the Twins plan to move forward with the catching position remains to be seen. As does their direction in general after shipping their best starting pitcher, Berríos, to Toronto.
“You never really know what the organization is thinking,” Garver said. “You saw it in ’18, they traded away some homegrown guys that had been a staple in the lineup for a long time. And you saw what we did in ’19 when we turned it around, won 100 games with the lineup that we have, added a few pieces and we were a really good team. Who knows what could happen?”
During the season, Berríos only allows himself a cheat day two days after he starts. So he’s planning ahead.
Berríos said Thursday he has already ordered food for his new Blue Jays teammates for Sunday to try to “give (them) something special from Minnesota.” Berríos will start against the Twins at Target Field on Friday, the second time he will face his former teammates in less than a week. Last time out, he gave up three runs in 6 2/3 innings in Toronto.
Before the series opener on Thursday, the Twins played a video tribute to commemorate his time with the organization, which included a 55-43 record over six seasons and two All-Star Game selections.
“I walked this morning from the hotel to the ballpark,” Berríos said. “The ballpark from the other side, it’s crazy. It’s crazy. I talked to my family — I’m going to enjoy this weekend here, obviously, and try to have fun with my guys again.”
Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo received a one-game suspension after MLB determined reliever Ryan Borucki intentionally hit Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier with a pitch Wednesday. Montoyo served that suspension on Thursday night against the Twins. … Manager Rocco Baldelli said the Twins are pleased with how John Gant (abdominal strain) has progressed and they hope to get him back before the season ends.