The Rangers announced this afternoon that catcher Mitch Garver is returning from the 10-day injured list. To open space on the active roster, corner outfielder Nick Solak has been optioned to Triple-A Round Rock. Texas also announced that veteran infielder Matt Carpenter has been released from his minor league contract, making him a free agent.
Garver returns after a minimal IL stint because of a muscle strain in his forearm. Texas acquired the power-hitting backstop in a key offseason deal with the Twins, and he’s thus far appeared in 22 games with his new team. Garver is off to a relatively slow start, hitting .205/.292/.346 with a trio of homers in 89 trips to the plate. Backup catcher Jonah Heim has been excellent all season, though, and he and Garver figure to share a fair bit of time behind the dish and at designated hitter.
Solak is a former second-round pick and highly-regarded prospect. Texas acquired him from the Rays in July 2019 for reliever Pete Fairbanks, hoping they’d landed their long-term second baseman. The right-handed hitter had put up excellent numbers in the Yankees and Rays farm systems before the deal, which continued down the stretch at Texas’ top affiliate. Solak made his MLB debut late that season and hit .293/.393/.491 through his first 33 games, a continuation of the offensive upside he’d shown in the minors.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t managed to build off that early success. Solak didn’t hit for much power during the shortened 2020 season, and he stumbled to a .242/.314/.362 line over a personal-high 511 plate appearances last year. He also rated poorly defensively at the keystone, echoing concerns about his glovework that have persisted since his days as a prospect. After Texas signed a new double-play tandem of Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, they bumped Solak off the dirt entirely. He’s played exclusively left field and designated hitter to this point in 2022.
Falling further down the defensive spectrum only raises the pressure on the 27-year-old to hit. He got off to a strong start this year, primarily on the short side of a platoon. He hasn’t performed in May, however, and Texas will now send him back to the minors for more regular run. Through his first 75 plate appearances (more than half of which have come against left-handed pitching), Solak owns a .209/.293/.313 line.
Depending on how long he’s in the minors, the optional assignment could have an impact on Solak’s service trajectory. He’s on pace to hit free agency after the 2025 season, having entered the season with two years and 28 days of service time. Spending more than a month in the minors would jeopardize his ability to reach the three-year threshold after this season, although Solak will eventually need to perform better for the Rangers to tender him contracts throughout his arbitration years anyhow. With a .253/.327/.372 career line and currently squeezed off the active roster, Solak may find himself as a change-of-scenery candidate over the next couple months.
Carpenter, meanwhile, signed a non-roster deal during Spring Training. It marked a homecoming for the former TCU star, who had previously spent his entire career with the Cardinals. A three-time All-Star and two-time top ten finisher in MVP balloting in St. Louis, Carpenter saw his production turn sharply downwards by 2019. He had significant struggles in both 2020-21 and didn’t land an MLB roster spot after the Cards bought him out last fall.
The 36-year-old spoke over the offseason about the necessity to overhaul his hitting mechanics to rediscover his production at the plate. The early results have been encouraging, as Carpenter hit .275/.379/.613 and popped six homers in 21 games for Round Rock. Texas didn’t feel they had big league at-bats to offer, however, and the sides mutually agreed to part ways, relays Levi Weaver of the Athletic. It stands to reason there’ll be other teams willing to offer Carpenter a new minor league deal after his strong start for the Express.