Discussion: What makes sense for Joe Mauer and the Twins?

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?

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Comments

  1. Ed said...

    In one part you state that a ten year deal around $20M is dangerous for the club, then you state that one for $250M makes sense. Which is it? Maybe if the Twins get injury out clauses as well. No matter what, though, they have to keep him.

  2. Joshua Fisher said...

    Ed, you’re absolutely right. I meant to throw in a Red Sox-style injury clause or option years triggered by plate appearances.

    But I think the Twins do have to bear the greater risk here. The consequence of losing Mauer hurts the Twins more than losing the Twins hurts Mauer.

  3. Mike said...

    The main issue here is definitely whether Mauer will want to stick with a team that is destined to make early exits in the playoffs. I think the Twins have potential to be a AL Central powerhouse, but it is a different story when you put the Yankees and Red Sox into the mix (obvious perennial powerhouses).

    If the Twins get stretched too thin with the M & M boys, as you suggest, Fish, we aren’t going to be able to afford a pitching staff capable of holding off teams with the prime talent that the Yanks and BoSox, and others, continuously field. Currently, the strategy of “pick up geriatric pitchers hours before the trade deadline” is not going to work.

    All I mean to say is this: Mauer doesn’t deserve to waste a career. Players like him only come around every so often and they deserve an opportunity to win a Championship (See, e.g., Kevin Garnett). If we sign Mauer to a long term deal, we BETTER surround him with some talent, otherwise let’s keep him for a few years then let him go to a contender that is willing to field a Championship team.

    If you love it let it go…or put a ring on it.

  4. Joe R said...

    Here’s an idea:

    10 year / $18 mil / year base salary.

    +$10-$12 million if he catches at least 50% of his team’s games.

    So if he’s the Twins’ catcher for 6 more seasons, then has to move to 1B due to aging, he gets ~$246 million out of the deal.

  5. Jonathan Halket said...

    I don’t get why there would be any playing time incentives for Mauer unless the Twins feel he is a slacker of some sort (or will be once he gets a long-term deal).  It is probably a heck of a lot cheaper for them to buy insurance for Lloyds or someplace then for Mauer to insure the Twins himself through playing time clauses.  The whole point of longterm deals is to transfer some of the risk from the player to the team.  In exchange, the Twins would get Mauer more cheaply than if they had to buy his services each year on a 1 yr basis in the open market.
    And if i’m Mauer, there’s no way i’m giving the Twins a discount for the sole purpose of going out and buying other players and putting together a competitive team.  The twins can talk all they want about spending more money on the club with the new ballpark and all but that talk is cheap.

  6. Jacob Rothberg said...

    What kind of out clauses are you talking about? THe only out clauses that aren’t exercised are if a player is hopelessly injured or terrible or both (a la Vernon Wells), otherwise out clauses are ALWAYS going to be exercised by the player, because it it is always better to be a free agent then to have a contract. A player with a contract has zero leverage, a guy with an out has all the leverage in the world.

  7. Greg Simons said...

    I’m thinking 6 years/$135 million.

    If he remains a Twin his entire career, he’ll have an excellent chance of “becoming the single greatest figure in the history of Minnesota sports.”

  8. Patrick said...

    Mike,

    I couldn’t agree more…

    And I work about three blocks from Target Field, though I live ALL the way over in St. Paul, (Pretty, pretty ball park…  See it every day, can see it from the windows in our break room and on the drive to and from work…)..  So…  I’m excited to see this deal get done.

    Hopefully we’ll know in a few weeks. smile

  9. D Leaberry said...

    If Mauer truly loves his home state, he’ll work out a deal that allows the Twins flexibilty so that the management can keep the Twins competitive in the field.  He ought to look to Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn, George Brett and Robin Yount as role models.  Each is not only identified with the franshises for which they played but the metro areas for which they played so long.  They experience the rewards that baseball vagabonds like Gary Sheffield and Andre Dawson will never experience.

  10. Greg Simons said...

    @D Leaberry – the obvious flipside to this is that if the Twins love their fans and value winning and the additional revenue streams success creates, they’ll work out a deal that keeps their extraordinarily valuable asset happy and in a Twins uniform for a long time, and they’ll surround him with enough other talented players to remain competitive.

    The team will see significantly increased revenue from the new ballpark, both because of its novelty and because of the more favorable lease terms.  The citizens of Minnesota gave a half-billion dollar gift to a team owned by a family with a net worth in the billions.

    Why is it the players who are expected to sacrifice by giving the team a hometown discount?  How about the team giving a hometown bonus to their home-grown superstart?

  11. Joe R said...

    The good news: Mauer’s most similar player through age 26 is this guy: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/d/dickebi01.shtml

    The bad news: His third most similar player through age 26 is this guy: http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/k/kendaja01.shtml

    Kind of scary buy
    Mauer through age 26 season: 2994 PA, .327/.408/.483, 72 HR

    Kendall through age 26 season: 2682 PA, .314/.402/.456, 45 HR

    Kendall never had quite the power jump of Mauer, but other than that, it’s hauntingly close. Wonder if anyone in Minnesota will pull this card.

  12. Greg Simons said...

    @Joe R – That’s pretty stunning similarity.  I didn’t realize Kendall had that much power when he was young.

    Mauer’s #2 (Yogi Berra), #4 (Mickey Cochrane) and #5 (Derek Jeter) most similar players are pretty promising, too.

  13. MikeS said...

    “Staying long-term would all-but-assure him of becoming the single greatest figure in the history of Minnesota sports.”

    Mauer’s great, no doubt about it.  he is a great hitter and a great defender at THE premium defensive position.  He’s one of the top 10 players in the game today.  He has a shot at the hall of fame.  But…

    Harmon Killebrew
    Rod Carew
    Kent Hrbek
    Kirby Puckett
    Fran Tarkenton
    Alan Page

    Let’s wait a few years and see how well he holds up against some of those guys.

  14. JB (the original) said...

    Just to throw it out there since I’ve seen it referenced a few times, the new stadium is expected to increase the revenue to the Twins by about $20M a year.  So really, all that “new stadium” money will do is allow them to keep one additional “stud” on the team.  Without the new stadium the Twins would have had to choose between keeping Mauer or Morneau, now they can do both, but have little money to do anything else.

  15. John said...

    Target Field is going to increase their revenue by a lot more than $20 million.  But only 50% (or a tick more) of revenue is spent on payroll, so the increase there will probably be $20-25 million from the previous peak. 

    That’s not chump change.  The Twins will still need to produce young players (as does everyone save the Yankees) and get some production on the cheap.  But it significantly improves their prospects, if the money is spent well anyway (beyond Mauer).

    My only concern is his long-term health.  If he is playing, he will play well.

  16. JB (the original) said...

    http://www.twinkietown.com/2009/11/20/1166959/this-could-get-messy-revenues-and

    —“That’s all new money,” said Twins President Dave St. Peter, who notes that the ballpark will generate $40 million to $50 million a year in new revenues.—-

    (of which the Twins average 50% of revenue to spend on payroll—or $20-$25M)

    So, like I said, they’ll make enough money to keep one more stud, and that’s about it; not that I’m complaining, it just seemed that a lot of people figured with “all this revenue” we’d be seeing “big” changes, but really, the stadium lets us keep up (ie, tread water) with the inflation costs of MLB payrolls, plus a bit more.  Remember too, the higher the Twins payroll gets, the less “free money” they will receive from the revenue sharing plan.

  17. Greg Simons said...

    So, after putting half their new windfall toward player salaries, the Twins will have another $20-$25 million a year to spend or pocket as they see fit?  Good for them, but I don’t want to hear them complaining they can’t afford to step up their salary levels aside from a potential Mauer deal.  If they make the playoffs, they’ll make several million dollars more.

    I don’t see why baseball teams are so averse to investing in their product in order to improve their returns.  It’s the system in the rest of the business world.  Build a better mousetrap, and people will buy it.  In MLB, it’s, “Give us money for a mousetrap, and maybe we’ll make one.”

    I’m not just picking on the Twins.  Many other teams take this approach.

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