It would be a massive upset if Joe Mauer and the Twins can’t reach an agreement that keeps him in Minnesota for years to come. It would be a blow to the team as it opens a publicly-funded stadium built with Mauer in mind. It would be a blow to a sports community fraught with one disappointment and defection after another. And it would be a blow to me, personally; I live about a mile from Target Field, and it’s really freaking fun to watch the guy play ball.
But what makes sense?
The rumor flying around these parts (after it spends the proper amount of time doused by that pink de-icing liquid) is a ten-year deal well into the $200 millions. While that might be the broad framework of an eventual agreement, I’m not buying that it will be as simple as that de facto lifetime contract. Such a commitment, in my opinion, doesn’t serve either party’s best interests.
As fabulous a player as Mauer is, we don’t know how long he’ll be able to catch. And we don’t know if he can play third base. And we don’t know if he’ll have the power to be paid like the best player in the league if he plays first. Committing the team’s short- and medium-term future to a player surrounded by so much uncertainty is a more than a little dangerous.
As for Mauer, his concern has to be that, with the Twins paying he and Justin Morneau something like $40 million per season combined, will there be enough money to put a team around those two? It’s important to remember how big a boon Target Field should be for the organization; the Twins didn’t derive any revenue from luxury suite sales at the Metrodome. So they’ll get a significantly larger boost from opening a new stadium than usual, which should help.
I don’t see the Twins and Joe Mauer parting ways at this juncture. The Twins simply cannot trade their franchise player during the inaugural season at their publicly-funded ballpark, which is exactly what would have to happen if no agreement is reached. And Mauer really does want to be here. Staying long-term would all-but-assure him of becoming the single greatest figure in the history of Minnesota sports. This deal is going to get done.
So what kind of contract makes sense? I say something like 10 years at $250 million with a couple out clauses along the way, maybe for 2013 and 2016. I think it would be appropriate to have the the 2016-and-beyond seasons contingent on something like plate appearances, to mitigate the injury risk. (Thanks, Ed!) This gives the club the cornerstone it needs and the player the chance to hit the market in his prime if, for whatever reason, it’s just not going to work in Minnesota.
What do you think?