Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mauer Signs

The Twins signed Joe Mauer on Sunday to an eight-year, $184M contract extension, keeping him in Minnesota through the 2018 season.

After Mauer makes $12.5M for the 2010 season, he'll rake in $23M annually from 2011 through 2018, and will also have a full no-trade clause for the life of the deal.

The Twins made the move to keep the three-time AL batting champion in Minnesota for the long term and this was a solid PR move by the organization. Some in Twins Territory were sweating it out a bit as the negotiations dragged out, but one had to believe a deal was going to eventually be struck. Mauer's agent, Ron Shapiro, is notorious for advising clients who wish to stay in one city throughout their careers, namely with Cal Ripken, Jr. and Kirby Puckett.

From a baseball perspective, this is a no-brainer. From an organizational perspective, this is a hamstringer for the Twins. They have esentially committed 25% of their payroll to one player for the forseeable future. Twenty-three million annually is a lot of money and the Pohlad family certainly has the means to dole it out., However, the Twins operate under a business model consistent with middle market teams. Despite glistening new Target Field opening up some new revenue streams for the team, money is not all of the sudden going to be printed. The Twins are realistically not going to have a payroll much over $100M (and it makes sense to keep it under that mark) and now are committing 1/4 of that to Mauer. Not that Mauer isn't worth it, but the prospects of signing Justin Morneau after his deal expires after 2013 is less than it was 24 hours ago. Jason Kubel will hit the market after the 2011 season, and there won't be a lot of money left to sign the team's third-best hitter. You get the point.

The full no-trade clause is also problematic for a team like the Twins. Say that the Twins hit the tank in 2014 and are still committed to Mauer for another four seasons. The team has no leverage in moving the catcher should they need to do a quick re-build. The team was in a similar predicament in the 1990s when Puckett accounted for a huge chunk of the payroll. The couldn't move him (bad PR move dealing the only star on the team) and the team experienced losing seasons from 1993 through 2000. Not that the Twins will have the same thing happen to them during this deal, but I'm just saying.....

If I were the GM, I don't think I would have gone beyond six years for Mauer. The money was within the range I expected, but I don't think I would have gone beyond six years and $125M for Mauer. Catcher is a short-term position and committing to one for eight years is just not feasable. He has a bit of an injury history and will likely have to change positions some time within the term of the deal.

It's a risky deal for the team, given the length of the contract, the money, and the full no-trade. However, the Twins had to do this deal. The public would have revolted against the team had they allowed Mauer to walk away. However, this blogger would have been just fine with the Twins saying that they offered Joe Mauer $20-$22M annually for six seasons and he said no. That's a PR move I would have been able to forgive.

For now, let's celebrate keeping the best player in the American League in Minnesota for a long time.

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