Mauer deal is historic in many ways

The news that Minnesota Twins fans have been waiting for all offseason long finally came to fruition on Sunday. Star catcher Joe Mauer will be with the Twins for a long time.

Mauer agreed to an eight-year, $184 million contract extension that starts in 2011 and takes him through 2018, when he’ll be 35 years old. An announcement will come at 6 p.m. Monday, which will be televised by Fox Sports Net North, according to its Web site.

One look at the largest current contracts in Major League Baseball gives you some idea of how prolific this deal actually is. Four of the top five largest deals (in terms of total money) in baseball right now belong to Yankees. The lone non-Yankee is Mauer.

His $184 million package puts him behind only New York’s Alex Rodriguez ($275 million) and CC Sabathia ($189 million).

The one thing that wears me out is this belief that the Twins can’t compete with Mauer making that much money. Who knows? Maybe they won’t. But if they don’t compete, it will have nothing to do with the three-time batting champion for a catcher that they have. It will be because they were unable to develop young talent to put around him.

The new stadium increases payroll by $25 to $30 million per year. Well, if Mauer’s $23 million per year is a $13 million jump from what he made the last few years at the Metrodome, then there’s still plenty of EXTRA money to go around.

I’ve heard the situation compared to the Texas Rangers when they signed Rodriguez to a 10-year, $250 million deal before he was eventually dealt to the Yankees. But clearly the Rangers failed to develop pitching to put around him. Throughout their history – for the most part – they haven’t had pitching. They weren’t a perennial playoff team before A-Rod, they weren’t with A-Rod, and they aren’t without A-Rod. Nothing has changed. It’s a completely different situation.

Like I said, if the Twins don’t compete, it won’t be because they have an MVP behind the plate.

Here’s a few more takes on the Mauer extension:

Sunday afternoon links

Here’s a few good links for you as the Red River crests this Sunday afternoon:

Nathan’s season is officially over for the Twins

A search for a Minnesota Twins closer can officially begin.

Twins closer Joe Nathan played catch with pitching coach Rick Anderson on Sunday morning, and it did not go well enough for Nathan to try to pitch this season through pain after tearing a ligament in his elbow earlier this month.

Nathan will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season.

My guess is that the Twins will have a hard time making a deal before the season opens, in the event that they choose to trade for a closer. And I have a "Heath Bell or bust" mentality when it comes to making a deal, but it doesn’t sound like he’s going anywhere. If it’s not a bona fide reliable closer, I wouldn’t make a trade that would gut the farm system.

I like Toronto’s Jason Frasor, but I don’t know what the asking price would be. Chances are, it would be too high for my taste. Frasor had great numbers last year, but he’s still someone who’s registered just 15 saves total in the last five seasons.

So I bet the Twins end up staying in-house at least until the midseason trade deadline, as they so often do when matters like this come up.

Jon Rauch is probably the favorite at this point, though I wouldn’t rule out Matt Guerrier or Jose Mijares. There’s no doubt if Pat Neshek opens the season strong that he could wrest the job from one of these guys. Same goes for Francisco Liriano, assuming he didn’t open the season on the rotation. But the Twins would be crazy to just hand the job to Neshek or Liriano for Opening Day.