Rumors circulated on Tuesday that Joe Mauer had signed a 10 year, $200 million extension with the Twins.
My two reactions were: 1 – Wow, I can’t believe the Twins spent that much money and 2 – Good for them.
Those rumors later turns out to be false, so Mauer isn’t locked up yet and could still potentially become a free agent. Most people feel that Mauer would cause a massive bidding war, as the Red Sox, Mets, and Yankees would all likely get involved.
So what is Joe Mauer actually worth? Is 10 years and $200 million appropriate? That’s approaching Alex Rodriguez money, which makes some sense: Mauer is younger than A-Rod, better defensively, and plays a more valuable position. A-Rod is probably the better hitter overall because of his power, but Mauer hits for both average and power and still draws walks.
If you knew Mauer would continue to perform as he’s had – and continue to play catcher – you would commit $20 million a year to him without thinking. The question with a Mauer extension though, is how long will he hold up? He’s never had a season where he has played in more than 146 games and he plays the most demanding position with a body type that is not ideal for it.
Mauer is a fantastic hitter. But what if 3 years into the contract, Mauer can no longer catch everyday? Should any team pay a player $20 million to be a DH? Could Mauer move to a different position (first base seems realistic)? Can a smaller-market team like the Twins absorb that kind of risk? It’s reasonable to think Mauer will be a good hitter for the next 10 seasons, and a team like the Red Sox, Mets, or Yankees could obviously afford to pay to have a good hitting first baseman or DH. Not to mention they could get by if Mauer got hurt. The Twins would essentially be putting all of their eggs in the Mauer basket and they would forego the financial flexibility that is so crucial to their success.
So should they do it? Well, I ultimately think it’s a good thing for the Yankees if they do. If Mauer hits the market, the Yankees will be involved because they almost have to be; Mauer is the best player at one of the most important positions. The Yankees can’t let a player like that go to the Red Sox or Mets without a fight.
Yet, the Yankees are set up better at catcher, both in the present and the future, than either of those teams. Jorge Posada has never been a great defender, but he’s still playable there and he’s a truly elite hitter – perhaps the best hitting catcher outside of Mauer.
Plus the Yankees have been collecting catching prospects like crazy in recent years; they now have Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez, and Kyle Higashioka in the minors. Prospects are never a sure thing, but you’d have to think the Yankees like their chances of developing Posada’s replacement in-house.
Conversely, the Red Sox and Mets have been trying to find a solution at catcher for the past few seasons and don’t have much catching talent in their systems.
So, if it turns out that Mauer does come to an agreement and stays with the home-town Twins, I don’t think the Yankees will be that devastated.