What Would YOU Do? Joe Mauer Edition

15 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

With the 2009 season in the rearview mirror, it is likely that the Twins front office will soon turn their attention to the 2010 season. There are a ton of decisions that GM Bill Smith and his staff need to make this offseason. In conjunction with TwinsCentric.com and its Offseason GM Handbook, we are look at a series of What Would YOU Do blog entries. We have considered what to do with Orlando Cabrera, Joe Nathan, Carl Pavano., and Delmon Young/Carlos Gomez.

Alright, we have to talk about it sometime. I mean, it is only the #1 most important topic for the Twins offseason. Might as well make today the day. It will be the #1 topic of discussion, and it obviously is a very important offseason for it to happen. That’s right, we have to talk about the Joe Mauer situation. If you purchase your copy of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, you’ll see that Nick Nelson wrote an incredible article on the Mauer situation and all of the possibilities.

The Joe Mauer Story

Not sure if everyone is aware of this or not, but Joe Mauer is one of us. He is from St. Paul, went to Cretin-Derham Hall high school. He was the top baseball player and top football player in the country his senior year. Oh, and he was only All-State in basketball. Despite a full-ride to Florida State for football, when the Twins made him the #1 overall pick in 2001, he chose to sign and pursue a baseball career. Good decision. After spending 2001 at Elizabethton, he spent 2002 and Low A Quad Cities. In 2003, he started with the Ft. Myers Miracle before moving up to AA New Britain for the second half of the season. Following that 2003 season, the Twins made a quiet little trade with the Giants. All-Star catcher AJ Pierzynski was shipping to San Francisco in exchange for Joe Nathan, Boof Bonser and Francisco Liriano. Terry Ryan has been lauded for an incredible trade, but the forgotten piece of that trade is that the Twins were able to do it because they knew that Joe Mauer, with just a half-season of AA ball, was ready to take over as the team’s starting catcher in 2004. And he was. He hit .308 with a .939 OPS. Unfortunately it was in just 35 games because of a knee injury. In 2005, he hit .294 with a .372 OBP. He won his first batting title in 2006, hitting .347 in his Age 23 season. That offseason was his first arbitration-eligible season. He asked for $4.5 million. The Twins countered with $3.3 million. In the end, he was signed to a four year, $33 million deal that bought out one year of free agency. In 2008, he won his second batting title and his first Gold Glove award. In 2009, he missed spring training and all of April with an injury. Yet he came back with a vengeance. He won his third batting title, but that was just part of the story. He became one of only a handful of players to win the “True Triple Crown”. He led the league in Batting Average (.365), On-Base Percentage (.444) and Slugging Percentage (.587). After hitting just 44 home runs his first five big league seasons, he hit 28 home runs in 2009. He should be the unanimous choice for 2009 American League MVP. His contract runs through 2010 (at $12.5 million).

He’s signed for another year, what’s the urgency? Well, the Twins have exclusive rights now to talk long-term contract with Mauer. If he were to play 2010 and have even an average season, he would be the most sought after free agent on the market next year. The Yankees need a replacement for Jorge Posada. The Red Sox will need a replacement for Jason Varitek and would happily move Victor Martinez to 1B or DH after David Ortiz’s contract is up. The Mets will need a catcher too. There will be a bidding war among teams that have a ton of money. Even if we believe that Mauer wants to stay with the Twins for life, if he becomes a free agent, the bids presented by the big market teams will drive the “hometown discount” price up and up. If you think that ten years and $250 million are excessive, just wait!

But right now, Joe Mauer has all the leverage. He’s coming off an MVP year. He has done things at the catcher position that no one has done in the history of the game, and he’s done it over the last four years. As important, he is so young. Most free agents are 30-32 years old. Mauer would be 27. If he goes to spring training next year without a new contract, there is little incentive for him to not become a free agent.

However, the Twins have remained competitive over the course of the last decade due to smart business and baseball decisions. This is a situation that will test that. The Twins were able to remain competitive despite the losses of Johan Santana and Torii Hunter. But Joe Mauer is different. He is the home town hero. He is Minnesota nice. He is genuine. Hunter was a very good player, but he was not the best in the business at his position. This is different and should be dealt with differently. However, despite the fact that the Twins will have additional revenues by moving into Target Field, the payroll will likely get to $100 million within the next two or three years. Can any team afford to pay one of its players 20-25% of the overall payroll? Add in Justin Morneau’s $14 million and Joe Nathan’s $11.25 million and Michael Cuddyer’s $8.5 million contract and you’ve got four players earning 55% of the payroll. And Twins fans will still expect them to spend more on top players?

There is a fine line between smart baseball decisions and smart business decisions. They don’t always mix well. I said this back in the Santana days, and I think it applies more with Joe Mauer. I think that the Twins need to determine their payroll, and then determine their Mauer payroll. Mauer is an exception and the Twins need to handle it as such. The backlash from the public if the Twins either let Mauer go via free agency or traded him (even if they got an amazing return) would be felt for a long time.

The Joe Mauer situation is the #1 offseason decision that the Twins front office will have to make. It will be very interesting to see how it is handled. I was happy when Joe Christensen wrote an article that Joe Mauer would be patient with negotiations, but he also talked about one of his reasons for signing with his agent, Ron Shapiro, was because of his work with Kirby Puckett and Cal Ripken. To single out two Hall of Famers who are synonymous with playing for one team said a lot to me. I can’t help but think that Joe Mauer wants to remain a Twin. I also don’t think he will settle for much of a hometown discount. This will be very interesting!

So what do you think? What do you do? Throw out your contract offers. Would you offer more than six years? Catchers don’t age particularly well. Would you offer $20 million a season? How about $25? Or, would you consider what kind of package the Twins could acquire for Mauer in a trade? This is going to be an interesting decision. If you would like to share your thoughts, please click here.

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This is another of many, many decisions that the Twins General Manager Bill Smith will have to make now that the Twins playoff run is complete. John Bonnes (Twins Geek), Parker Hageman (Over the Baggy), Nick Nelson (Nick’s Twins blog) and myself have put together the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook. In its pages, we will put the reader in the role of Twins GM. The four of us will act as advisers. We will provide you with 137 pages worth of information to help you work through your offseason. We discuss the Twins internal free agents, look at the 40 man roster and options to be added, possible trade targets and free agent options. We will review the Joe Mauer contract situation, the #2 spot in the order, and all of the Twins potential arbitration scenarios. Finally, we will each present you with a blueprint, our own recommendation of eight to ten ideas to improve the Twins in 2010. Darren “Doogie” Wolfson wrote the foreword for us. If you are at all interested in this, be sure to go to www.TwinsCentric.com where you can purchase an electronic book (all 137 pages) for just $9.95. If you’re even just a little bit intrigued, still check out that web site where you can also receive a Free Sample of approximately 1/3 the book. (NOTE – we will be making a printed version available in the next couple of weeks, for a higher price) Of course, if you have any questions or comments, you can e-mail me, or e-mail TwinsCentric@gmail.com.

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Arizona Fall League Update – Last year the Mesa Solar Stars won again. Mike McCardell started and threw two shutout innings. He gave up one hit, walked one and struck out four. Alex Burnett came in for the final inning and did not allow a run despite three walks. He struck out one.

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 Venezuelan Winter League Update – The Venezuelan League is up and running. They’ve only played a handful of games, but here are some numbers of the Twins players in the league. Wilson Ramos has played in five games and is 6-22 (.273) with two doubles and two home runs. Dustin Martin is 2-18 (.111) with a homer. Justin Huber was 2-5 in his one game so far. Jonathan Goncalves is 2-11 in four games (.182). Jason Jones has given up one run on three hits in his four innings. Frank Mata has three shutout innings in two games. Oswaldo Sosa gave up one run in his one inning.

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34 Responses to “What Would YOU Do? Joe Mauer Edition”

  1. ChermesZ October 15, 2009 at 10:18 am #

    Put a microphone or secret tape recorder on Shapiro and hit the Yankees, Boston and the Mets for tampering. Then we keep Mauer and get a huge haul from those teams.

    You know they will tamper.

  2. gobbledygookguy October 15, 2009 at 10:37 am #

    20m a year for as long as he wants to play. I don’t think Joe would keep playing just to collect a paycheck or embarrass himself.
    Give him 2 outs one after 4 yrs a player buyout of 10m and after 6 or 7 years he can buy it out at end of any year. If he becomes unhappy he can leave at either point as a free agent.
    If they pay him more than that it may turn into another Kevin Garnett deal with one star and no help. remember that with Garnett they were a reg. playoff team but only were able to advance once. sound familiar?

  3. TwinsTarget October 15, 2009 at 10:37 am #

    The bottom line is that the Twins cannot allow Mauer to walk as a free agent. If things aren’t close when the trade deadline approaches next year, I would probably try to get a king’s ransom in return for his services.

    That said, there is no equal value for Mauer.

  4. Peter October 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    Hi Seth, this is not about business at all because then the Twins / Pohlads bros would have addressed this issue a couple of years before this fall / winter. Something like the Pujols deal 2003-2011. I don’t know if it’s Ryan, Smith or some Pohlad lad but some decision has been postponed quiet some time. I hate to see him go but so far the Twins have shown no committment at all to Big Joe ( I mean buying off one year of free agency is dust in the wind). That says a lot about this franchise. I hope he is gonna be a Cub or a Red Sock but Joe, come on, this is not a Twin Decade. If you want a ring, leave.

  5. mike wants wins October 15, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    If they don’t sign him, I cannot imagine the outburst of anger from the legistlature and fans. We built them a new stadium, and they cannot lost a possible Hall of Fame type player, local boy, hero right away.

    I predict 22-25MM to stay here, 25-30MM per year to leave here. Seven years is the minimum, unless he wants to go three years and have his options open for when he is 30….though I doubt that will be the case.

    That raises the question, how much payroll can they have tied up in how many players? It also points out why you can’t waste even $1MM on a fringe player(s). That is, if you can have a guy making the minimum, or have a guy making $1-2MM more per year, for pretty much the same production, you need the guy(s) making the minimum. You can’t afford Punto, if you have Tolbert or random guy x producing the same outputs for the minimum. You can’t have Delmon and Gomez, if one of those guys can be replaced for a guy making the minimum.

    I see no way not to sign Mauer. But, signing him makes it that much harder to afford help for him. This is going to be very hard, and it will require Smith to make much, much better decisions about how he spends his money. Given his track record, I’m not confident (see Ayala, Punto, and his trades), but I am hopeful.

    Finally, this team has 5 very good to great hitters. They have 2-3 good starting pitchers, and may have a good bullpen now. The need to fill in the holes, and try to compete. Who knows how long Mauer and others will hold up. Who knows how long they can afford to keep these guys together. The odds of them developing Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, Span, Cuddeyer, and of having them all in their peak at the same time are slim in the future. Now is the time to try to win, not to be trading away the present for the future.

  6. Joe October 15, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    7 years 140 million to start. Then negotiate of his reply. I expect them to land around 8 years 170. The Twins will not offer over 200 million and they will not offer 10 years. Its not their game.

  7. mike wants wins October 15, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    btw, how hard will it be for Wilf to get a new stadium if the Twins epic fail on their first chance to spend more money in the new stadium?

  8. Big Dawg October 15, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    Bottom line: They have to sign him. As stated by many, the backlash would dome this org for years to come. 7 years guaranteed. Yr 1: 15 with 5 mil signing bonus. yr 2, 19 mil, yr 3 22 mil, yr 4 25 mil, yr 5-7 26 mil each. total contract = 159 plus 5 mil signing bonus. Keeping Mauer in a Twins uniform for life will benefit this org in regards to players who aren’t even born yet.

  9. the Dragon October 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    Couple of things, not sure any would happen.

    $20 mil 7 years sounds good. Add maybe a $10 mil signing bonus and a 5-10 year post-career personal service contract $1-2 mil per. WOW!!! I didn’t realize how much fun it is to spend someone elses money.

    Regards,

  10. nweber3 October 15, 2009 at 1:45 pm #

    Mauer is not going anywhere. The Pohlad’s might be cheap, but they’re not stupid. He’s making about 12 million now, give or take, so giving him 20 million is really not to much more. They stepped up and gave Puckett his money to keep him here and the same will happen here. They know the importance of this decision both on the field and off the field. It’s all going to come down to what he wants. He seems pretty comfortable here.

  11. armadillo44 October 15, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    Mauer is such a special player that I don’t see any way the Twins could get equal value in a trade. They might as well just ask him what he wants and give it to him because he can get it in a year from a different team if waits and this organization can’t loose him. Giving him a big contract is a lot less risky then Santana would have been and Mauer is in a totally different situation then Hunter was. Even if catching takes it’s toll on Mauer you can always move him to a different position and with his swing there’s little doubt that he’ll be a great hitter for his entire career. I agree with others who say the Pohlad family will treat this situation as a special circumstance and will make sure Mauer is a Twin for a long time.

  12. IA twins fan October 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm #

    I think Mauer signs. With his recent health issues I think he’ll decide $150M in the hand will be better than $200M in the bush. For the record, fangraphs estimates his production as worth $36.8M this year.

  13. Gopher Nation October 15, 2009 at 3:42 pm #

    I hope all of the commenters are way off base. I cannot imagine the Twins will spend $20 million or more per season for even Joe Mauer. I know he is one of us but to commit that much money to a catcher and one that hasn’t played a full season in his career doesn’t seem like a smart idea for a smaller market team, even with the new stadium. He has to be willing to take less than $20 million per year for us to even have the option of keeping him. Otherwise, we better open up the bidding right now. I have to believe Joe will look at $17 million per year to stay in MN as reasonable.

    • Kunza October 16, 2009 at 6:22 pm #

      I have to agree 100%. We are stuck with some “crappy” high dollar contracts already in Nathan and Cuddyer – what happens when he hits 20+! As much as I love Mauer, at that price I would rather sign 3 or 4 players with that 20 million and compete with Morneau, Kubel, Cuddyer and others.

  14. Bill in Sarasota October 15, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    7yr-140mil seems right but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 6yr-150mil.

    Again the Twins waited a year too long before extending a contract.

  15. TT October 15, 2009 at 4:06 pm #

    I think Joe Mauer is going to stay with the Twins. This is one of those situations where he is worth more to the Twins than to any other team. Of course, the Yankees can afford to pay him more next year. But the Twins can afford to give Mauer a 10 year contract because he will have fan appeal even when he can no longer catch every day.

    That said, I think the Twins should front-load the contract with salaries declining toward the end. Mauer really wants to win and the Twins can’t do that if they are paying a 37 year old catcher what he was worth at 27. They ought to be able to work out some system of team and player options with buyouts that guarantees him a large pot of money and also makes it very likely he will remain a Twin for life.

  16. mike wants wins October 15, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    he won’t be a catcher when he’s 37.

    Frankly, I’d move him to 3B, if he can do it, right now. His bat needs to be in the lineup more often, and more often healthy. He can get hurt at third, but he’s likely to last longer there than at C. He admitted that he was worn out at the end of the year. If you are paying him 25% of the entire salary of the team, he needs to be on the field and healthy more (not more compared to other catchers, more period).

  17. Han Joelo October 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

    Luckily Bill Smith is an ‘accountant.’ I’m sure he’ll figure something out that will include opt outs or what not. Unless he is hurt, he’ll have more trade value under contract than not. It is inconceivable to let him walk, or trade him, right now, but who knows in three or four years. More likely they trade Morneau in a couple of years, move Mauer to first, and Ramos to catcher.

  18. Peter Jenkins October 15, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    Did you recently talk to Loek Van Mil? I couldn’t find any Q&A. I’d like to know why he didn’t participate in the 2009 IBAF World Cup. As far as I knew, he missed the Eastern League playoffs to represent The Netherlands. But for some reason, he was dropped from the final roster. I saw this guy pitch this year, and I was really impressed! He’ll be Rule V eligible this offseason, what do you think the Twins are planning to do?

    Peter

  19. peterb18 October 15, 2009 at 8:08 pm #

    I think we are missing the key point—–Mauer has already said that a key to signing with the Twins is if they are committed to putting a winning team on the field. So it is to Joe’s advantage to wait and see what Twins are willing to spend on other top-line players. He has all the advantages to wait this out! To many people are focused on the money side: Remember, this is the richest family in baseball and the 3rd richest in all of North American sports. They can spend what they want–example:the owner in LA. Spends a lot of his own money!

  20. Joel Thingvall October 15, 2009 at 8:34 pm #

    You have your sesonal Twins payroll.

    And you have the Mauer contract, which should be above and beyond the Payroll becasue…he is Minnesota’s Twin. He gets the national recognition, the endorsements, he’s the face of the franchise.

    Yes, the Twins have to worry about durability over 5 or 7 or 10 years. But I don’t see anyone in the next decade become the new Mr. Twin. These folks come along few and far between. The Twins have ahd three — Harmon Killebrew, Kirby Puckett and now Mauer.

    Plus, they can give a big up-front bonus ($25-30-40 million) and save money down the line?

  21. clutterheart October 15, 2009 at 8:57 pm #

    You sign him for as much as it takes
    nothing else.

  22. TT October 15, 2009 at 10:02 pm #

    “They can spend what they want”

    The Pohlad’s have made it pretty clear the Twins are a business, not their hobby. They aren’t going to spend more than half their revenue on payroll.

    “he won’t be a catcher when he’s 37.”

    I wouldn’t bet on that. He probably won’t be an everyday catcher, but he could easily still be behind the plate occasionally. He’s a better defensive catcher than Redmond ever was. I think some people are underestimating his defensive value.

  23. Matt October 16, 2009 at 1:09 am #

    Offer him 20 mil a year for 6-8 years. If he wants market value the twins cant afford him and have to be willing to trade him. Most catchers don’t age well so it might not be the worst thing to trade him.

  24. Michael October 16, 2009 at 8:25 am #

    The success or failure of the entire off season hinges on whether or not Mauer is resigned or not. Everything else is interesting, perhaps even nice.

    The Pohlads may be frugal but they are not idiots. They stepped up for Kirby Puckett and they will step up for Joe Mauer. The potential backlash is too great.

  25. Nathan October 16, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    This one is straight forward. You have to extend him. If that’s impossible, you have to trade him.

  26. Blake October 16, 2009 at 9:36 am #

    Sign Maur to a three year contract with a 1 year option.

    Bluntly, the Twins are contenders and in the Series in the next three years or it doesn’t happen with the current crop of guys.

    At the end of three years, Mauer is traded for an ungodly amount of talent to a contender in order to rebuild the team and move forward from there.

  27. A Dot October 16, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    I’d give him the years. Is anyone really concerned that Mauer can’t change positions if catching starts taking too great a toll? Would Mauer’s offense as a LF suffer? It probably would improve. He’d probably be the premier LF in baseball. He’d probably be the premier 3B in baseball if he can field a lick. So if he can post numbers like he has as a C, and we could reasonably expect the same or better if he plays another position, isn’t he still worth $20 mil plus to this organization? Yes it places a huge importance on the draft, but that’s already true for the Twins.

    And the Twins have offered a player $20 mil per year (Santana) so to say the Pohlad’s are too cheap to do so for Mauer is baseless. While it’s obviously frustrating, why should they operate the Twins at a loss when the organization can clearly be successful when they don’t?

  28. Big Dawg October 16, 2009 at 11:23 am #

    Tony Gwyn (senior) is still paying dividends for the Padres. Cal Ripken is still paying dividends for the Oriels. Mauer will be giving back to the Twins org 40 years from now. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be the GM some day. Give him what he wants. He was all state in hoops and had a D1 football scholarship to Florida State. I think the guy can DH and backup catch at age 37. Hell, DH at 40. Reminds me of Dave Winfield only better. And he played until he was 43. Not at catcher and not at 20 mil per, but Mauer needs to remain a Twin for life.

  29. Big Dawg October 16, 2009 at 11:24 am #

    Orioles vice Oriels. Da## spell check

  30. ScottyB October 16, 2009 at 12:51 pm #

    The Twins need to keep flexibility in their payroll and going over $20M would handcuff them. I’d say offer a 10-year deal (basically a lifetime contract) for $180M. Include an upfront $10M bonus, 10 years averaging $15M per season, a $5M bonus upon retirement, and an additional 10 year $1.5M/yr retirement package. If they need to put together a bigger package, increase the retirement payments to $2M or $2.5M. As additional incentive, Brother Jake gets promoted to Beloit next season, with a guarantee of promotion to the bigs as 3rd base coach within 3 years and a promise of replacing Gardy as manager upon his retirement. Finally put Joe in the front office (like they did with Puck) in some PR capacity.

  31. Brad October 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    It is irresponsible to give a 10 year contract to anyone, even Joe Mauer. How many of these long term contract have actually paid off? The Rockies would have dumped Helton 3 ago if not for his long, long contract.

    Smith & the Pohlads have no choice but to get it done one way or another this off season. If he were to walk next year he would get $30 mill from some stupid team. $20 mill would be a steal for the Twins, if I’m Mr Smith I begin the negotiations at 6 yr $125 and top out at 7 yr $160. If Joe won’t sign for something in the $22-24 range I open up the bidding.
    Boston is the only team that I see with enough ammo to pull it off and sign him.

  32. Kunza October 16, 2009 at 6:32 pm #

    One of the hottest hot-stoves we will ever had in Minnesota this upcoming winter. This one will blow the Santana deal off the face of the earth in terms of press!

    I agree with all the posts about payroll flexibility. Are we really in a position to go over $20 million for one player? For me personally, I would rather have 2 or 3 good guys than one overpaid superstar (even if he was from Minnesota).

    How many championships has Mauer won? I don’t think we can compare him to Puckett – he won 2 championships and had the state already in his back pocket. Batting titles and a possible MVP don’t really equal the 2 championships that Puckett has in his pockets.

    Mauer needs to understand that if he wants to stay in Minnesota, he will have to take a serious discount. He can’t expect to break the bank and have other premium players brought in to help. He has to be realistic about the situation as well. I do think 16-20 million per year is about the right number.

  33. Mark October 16, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    Sign him! Do it now before spring training starts. Mauer and his agent do not want this contract issue to go into next season because it will detract from this clubs first season in target field. We should all agree to that. Once the season starts and no deal has been made, then as fans we can forget it. When the 2010 season is over and the F/A season begins, then look out because both teams from NY will call as will Boston. And Im sure others will call as well. As of right now the Twins are the only team that has full access to Mauer. The time is now! do not wait for spring training to start. Make the offer, $150M up to $170M for 8 years will keep him here.

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