The Yoshinobu Yamamoto signing was the last big free-agent splash we saw before a relatively quiet holiday weekend. Things should begin to heat up again in the coming days as teams turn their attention to the next tier of available players. Let’s review a few signings that have gone down in the latest Hot Stove Lowdown.
Mariners add power bat with Mitch Garver
The Mariners have been searching for a slugger to add to the middle of their lineup. They might have found their man over the weekend. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported that Seattle agreed to terms on a two-year, $24 million contract with catcher Mitch Garver. The 32-year-old slugger slashed an impressive .270/.370/.500 with 19 homers and 50 RBI across 344 plate appearances with the Rangers last season. Garver is known more for his bat than his glove, starting over twice as many games as designated hitter than catcher over the last two seasons with the Rangers. Part of that has been to keep him healthy. Garver’s injury history is a lengthy one. He missed nearly two months with a sprained knee last season. And a torn flexor tendon in his right forearm ended his 2022 season in July. Groin and back injuries limited Garver to 68 games in 2021. Still, there are few backstops that possess his power at the plate.
Garver’s .870 OPS led all catchers with at least 300 plate appearances. His .500 slugging percentage trailed only Yainer Díaz. He produced a 12.6 percent barrel rate that ranked fourth and paired his slugging ability with a solid contact rate, posting a 23.8 percent strikeout rate. While Garver should get the occasional start at catcher, backing up Cal Raleigh, he should be in the lineup most days as the designated hitter. And as the roster is currently constructed, he’ll be batting in the heart of the order. There is a 20-plus home run and 60-plus RBI upside. Getting everyday volume, with health, could make Garver one of the more valuable catchers going in early NFBC drafts with an average pick of 203.
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Red Sox and Angels interested in Teoscar Hernández
The market is heating up for another available slugger. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Red Sox and Angels are interested in Teoscar Hernández. The 31-year-old outfielder spent last season with the Mariners, hitting .258/.305/.435 with 26 home runs, 93 RBI, and seven steals across a career-high 678 plate appearances. He had spent the previous five years with the Blue Jays. The hyper-aggressive Hernández has never been shy about chasing his pitch, regularly striking out at a high rate. His 24.9 percent strikeout rate in 2021 is looking like a career outlier. He’s typically able to overcome the swing-and-miss with the ability to hit the ball extremely hard. And while he’s chasing pitching more with age, he’s still making incredibly hard contact. Hernández posted a 13.8 percent barrel rate and a 49.4 percent hard-hit rate in 2023. He may never hit .296 again, but the .258 he hit last season looks like a reasonable expectation given his track record. But there is some risk that a profile like this just falls off a cliff if his contact rate plummets. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of deal he ultimately ends up signing, but a short-term contract makes sense for a bat-only slugger like this who doesn’t get on base a ton and provides no defensive value.
With the Red Sox, Hernández would join a crowded outfield mix of Jarren Duran, Masataka Yoshida, Wilyer Abreu, Tyler O’Neill, and Rob Refsnyder. With Hernández the likely designated hitter, Yoshida would be poised to play the field more, likely pushing Abreu or O’Neill into part-time roles. While the playing time could be more clear with the Angels, the supporting lineup isn’t nearly as strong. Outside of Mike Trout, the Angels currently have Taylor Ward, Mickey Moniak, and Jo Adell vying for playing time in the outfield. Hernández is currently being drafted with an average pick of 151 in NFBC drafts, putting him in an interesting spot around fellow outfield sluggers Anthony Santander and Jorge Soler.
Tigers get bullpen depth with Shelby Miller
The Tigers added some veteran depth to their bullpen on Friday, signing Miller to a one-year, $3 million contract with a $4.25 million club option for 2025. The 33-year-old right-hander had a career revival out of the bullpen with the Dodgers last season, posting a 1.71 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, and a 42/19 K/BB ratio across 42 innings. While those ratios are impressive, the underlying skills suggest he was quite fortunate. Despite the move to relief, Miller has not seen an uptick in fastball velocity or swinging-strike rate. For the run suppression, we can point to his .165 BABIP, a number that will be impossible to sustain. The Tigers will be hoping he can build on the success he found in his new role. And the team doesn’t have many relievers with established track records. So Miller could find himself pitching in a variety of situations, from long relief to high-leverage situations.
Source: Yahoo Sports