Keeping Mauer Is Simply A Smart Baseball Decision

I know this marks the third straight day of blogging about Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, but what can I say? He’s on my mind and a lot of other people’s minds after winning the AL’s MVP award on Monday.

Forum colleagues Eric Peterson and Heath Hotzler got into a good debate on "Sports Talk" – as always from 1-2 p.m. weekdays on 970-AM WDAY – regarding Mauer’s future with the team. Mauer, of course, is entering the final year of his contract.

Peterson said that the Twins should keep Mauer at all costs. Hotzler said the Twins should trade Mauer because his value will never be higher and because paying for Mauer would mean the Twins would be unable to afford to put adequate talent around him.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I side with Peterson on this one. And anyone who reads this blog knows I’m a big fan of Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated. He’s got a great post about Mauer on his blog that all of you should read here.

My belief is that Mauer is the most irreplaceable player in baseball. He’s a catcher coming off of a season that he hit .365 with 28 homers. There is no other player in the game today with that type of skill set who can play catcher. Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals is the best player in the game today, but no player would be tougher to replace than Mauer.

As Posnanski points out, who’s even remotely in his class? Victor Martinez put up great numbers, but he plays quite a few of his games at first base. Brian McCann is a great catcher, but his OPS was roughly 200 points lower than Mauer’s in 2009. And after that, who are we talking about? Mauer leaves, and the Twins sign Miguel Olivo?

I haven’t forgotten who manned the backstop position for the Twins in the 1990s. Greg Myers, Matt Walbeck, Marcus Jensen, a washed-up Terry Steinbach, Matthew LeCroy

From a public-relations standpoint, the Twins should keep Mauer with a new stadium on the horizon. He’s from Minnesota, which gives him the "one of us" billing. But even if he was from Myanmar, the Twins should keep him.

The Twins would be challenged to put adequate talent around Mauer because he’s likely going to get an extension paying him $20-25 million per year. But the Twins will always be challenged because any team that’s not the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets or Cubs must develop young players in order to be successful.

Target Field is supposed to fetch the Twins an additional $40 million in revenue each season, which in turn is to lead to a $20 million jump in payroll. So signing Mauer and building a team around him is no more challenging now than it was before, considering the payroll boost.

I heard the argument today that the Twins just don’t operate this way, that they don’t sign players to contracts like that. But rumor had it that the Twins offered Johan Santana a five-year, $100 million deal before trading him away a couple years ago. Granted, everyone knew he wouldn’t take it, but the Twins must have been somewhat serious.

The difference between the Twins’ situation now and in the past is they actually have their own stadium. They’re in complete control of their financial well-being. I read earlier today that the Vikings – per the Metrodome agreement – received all of the money from luxury suites at Twins games, plus 75 percent of concession money. Why do you think the Vikings are ramping up efforts to get a new stadium? The Twins dough isn’t there anymore for them.

Should the Twins be concerned about a player like Mauer eating up 20 percent of their payroll? Not as concerned as they should be about life without him. Re-signing Mauer to a contract like that isn’t about numbers like that. Catchers that hit .365 don’t grow on trees.

Re-signing Mauer is simply a smart baseball decision.