Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • Thinking the Unthinkable: Trade Joe Mauer?

    This article was originally posted at Knuckleballsblog.com.

    This is what happens when the offseason rolls around and I really have no rooting interest among the four remaining MLB teams in the respective League Championship Series. I write 2000 words about something that will never, ever happen. At least that’s what happened to me Sunday.

    But it’s not my fault. I’m blaming my fellow Knuckleballs blogger, Eric, and this Sunday morning Tweet:

    @
    ERolfPleiss
    Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe says Red Sox should target Mauer and/or Morneau this winter. #MNTwins http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2012/10/13/few-ideas-shore-red-sox-roster/npiJ3r49NrtnhnGInPoQ1L/story.html …

    Having nothing better to do, I clicked the link to Cafardo’s article, which goes through several possible moves the Red Sox could make to get their team back on track, starting with trading for Joe Mauer. Cafardo mentions that the Red Sox are reportedly a bit gunshy about taking on more expensive long-term contracts and wonders if the Twins would eat some of his salary. On the other hand, if you’re the Twins, the only reason to deal Mauer would be to get out from under that contract. Putting those factors together, you quickly conclude that any such deal is beyond unlikely and bordering on unthinkable.

    But this is the offseason and what’s the offseason for if not to think about the unthinkable?

    I’m not surprised to see a Boston writer bring up Mauer’s name as a possible target for the Red Sox. In fact, given how old and fragile the Yankees line up is looking, I’d be shocked if Mauer’s name didn’t appear in more than one New York writer’s “How to Fix the Yankees” column in coming weeks, as well.

    Joe Mauer (Knuckleballs photo)

    But there are any number of logical reasons why Joe Mauer won’t be going anywhere. Local boy. Popular with local fans. Historically great hitting catcher. Huge contract. No-trade clause. The list goes on.

    But if you’ll promise not to misinterpret this as an article suggesting that Mauer either should or will be traded, let’s at least take a look at whether there are any circumstances under which Terry Ryan might actually consider a discussion.

    Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that Boston GM Ben Cherington places a call to Ryan and asks the simple question, “Can we talk about Joe Mauer?”

    Understand, it’s unlikely that question would even be asked. Cherington is unlikely to be looking to take on $23 million per year long-term contracts. Still, as Cafardo points out, Mauer would fit nicely in to a line up that would accommodate a catcher/1B/DH like Mauer. He might also set some kind of modern-day record for doubles in Fenway Park. Bringing in a legitimate superstar would send a strong message to Red Sox Nation that the team has no intention of taking several years to rebuild their brand. And let’s be honest, the Red Sox can afford to pay Mauer his money. They freed up a lot of payroll space with their late-season deals and if they decide to let David Ortiz walk away, they’ll have even more money to play with.

    So just maybe the Red Sox could see themselves calling about Mauer. But should the Twins even answer that call? That answer may not be as obvious as many fans think.

    The Twins gave Mauer an excessive contract before the 2010 season because they could not afford, from a public relations standpoint, not to sign him at any price he and his agent demanded. Opening a new stadium built largely with public funding, with virtually every seat bought and paid for through season tickets (and a waiting list of people willing to replace any holder who drops out), there was no way the Twins could allow themselves to be seen as letting the local hero get away because they didn’t want to pay for him. For the first time in franchise history, money really didn’t matter.

    But those days are nothing more than a misty memory today. The Twins are coming off of consecutive seasons of more than 95 losses and attendance is dropping. Put those factors together and it wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect the Twins to slash payroll for the second straight offseason. Today, money does matter. Paying one player $23 million dollars when your total payroll is $110 million is one thing. Doing so when your total payroll is $85 million is something else, altogether.

    Still, it’s not like the Twins are destitute, either. With the money coming off the books after the past season, Terry Ryan has enough payroll to work with to make improvements to his team. There aren’t a lot of top of the rotation pitchers out there, but there are plenty of more reasonably priced arms on the market and he even has a couple of trade chips he can afford to flip for pitching if he wants to go that direction. Also, despite what some folks might think, Joe Mauer is still really, really good at baseball and he’s likely to stay good for a number of years. You don’t just give that kind of talent away for a handful of magic beans (or in this case, for just a few million dollars of payroll space).

    What this all means is that if, as Cafardo suggests, Cherington asks TR whether the Twins would eat any of Mauer’s contract, the answer would be (or at least should be), “hell no!” But what if Boston agrees to take on that contract?

    Conventional wisdom in these kinds of trades is that the team trading a big contract either gets high level prospects back by eating some salary OR gets marginal prospects back while dumping the entire contract. That’s considered “fair return.”

    Yet the Red Sox themselves managed to not only unload more debt owed to
    less talented players on to the Dodgers a couple of months ago, but got legitimate talent back in return, as well. They should be congratulated for that. They should also be reminded of that when they call the Twins about Joe Mauer. “Fair” is a relative term. “Fair” depends on how badly you want what I have. If you don’t want Mauer that badly, that’s fine. If you do, then shut up about “fair” and let’s get serious.

    There are 3-4 players in the Red Sox system that the Twins would have to target as possible players they’d need in return. I’m not any kind of expert on minor league players, but fortunately I know how to read things written by people who are. I also have a pretty good idea what the Twins need (then again, who doesn’t at this point?).

    Any discussion with the Red Sox about Mauer would have to start with the Twins dumping his entire contract AND getting at least one of the following players in return:

    Allen Webster
    : 22 year old right-handed starting pitcher that the Sox got from the Dodgers in the Crawford, et al, trade. He’s got a mid-90s fastball and strikes out nearly a batter per inning. He pitched in AA this season and should be a AAA arm to start 2013. He was the #2 prospect in the Dodgers organization prior to the trade.

    Matt Barnes
    : Righty starting pitcher was the Sox first round pick out of UConn in 2011 and covered both levels of A-ball in 2012. Barnes also has a mid-90s fastball and strikes out a ton of hitters. He’s likely to be a year behind Webster in terms of being Major League ready, however.

    Garin Cecchini
    : 21 year old 3B had a .305/.394/.433 split in high-A ball in 2012. He also stole 51 bases in 57 attempts. He hasn’t shown a lot of power yet but hits a ton of doubles. With Will Middlebrooks perhaps entrenched at 3B for the Red Sox, Cecchini could be blocked unless he’s converted to a 2B. The Twins could use help in either spot.

    Speaking of third basemen being blocked by Middlebrooks, the Red Sox top prospect is reportedly Xander Bogaerts. Bogaerts is playing shortstop and the Sox hope he can stay there but scouts have doubts about whether he will be able to do that. They think he will more likely need to move to 3B or, perhaps even more likely, a corner OF spot or 1B. He was just 19 years old through the past season but has already shown both an ability to hit for average and power through Class A and even in a month of games at AA. It sounds like Boston has their own version of Miguel Sano, but it’s unlikely they’d trade him for anyone. I wouldn’t.

    With Cecchini and Bogaerts knocking on the door, maybe Boston should consider trading Middlebrooks?

    A step below these guys would be someone like Henry Owens, who is a 20 year old string bean of a pitcher with what appears to be a lot of potential. He’s 6’7” and a bit over 200 pounds and only throws in the low 90s at this point. But he had 130 strikeouts in 101.2 innings at Class A in 2012 and that would certainly move him to the top of the Twins’ starting pitching prospects list in a hurry.

    If the Twins could score one of these top prospects from Boston in addition to shedding Mauer’s contract, Ryan could then be free to have conversations with his peers about Major League level pitching without being as concerned about salary. Would a trade for someone like James Shields (who has a $9 mil club option with the Rays in 2013) then be something worth considering?


    Terry Ryan (Knuckleballs photo)

    But even if Ryan and Cherington could come to some kind of agreement, what about that pesky no-trade clause in Mauer’s contract? Would he even consider giving approval? Let’s just say I no longer believe it’s necessarily a certainty that he’d say “no” to such a deal.

    On the one hand, Joe’s a very private person and it would seem that moving to a large-market team that is as dysfunctional as the Red Sox has been would be counter-intuitive. On the other hand, he’s a really big fish in a mid-market fishbowl and you wonder if he might not welcome the opportunity to be just one of many mega-stars in the New England sports scene. As Cafardo points out, Mauer also lives in Fort Myers in the offseason. Guess who, besides the Twins, has their Spring Training facility in Fort Myers? Yep… the Sawx.

    Let’s also be honest about something else. Despite the colossal belly flop of a season that the Red Sox had in 2012, if you were Mauer and were weighing the Sox against the Twins as to which organization was more likely to field a Championship level team over the remaining six years of your contract, there’s no doubt who you would see as being more likely. Boston may not always make the right decisions, but their clear goal every year is to win it all. And every year, they make moves they believe will give themselves a better shot at doing so. You simply can not say that about the Twins.

    Joe Mauer is not a naïve little boy any more. Family is important. But he already lives in Florida half the year and the life of a MLB ballplayer during the season doesn’t leave much time for family anyway. With Boston training in Fort Myers, I think they might just be one team he would consider waiving his no-trade deal for.

    So, IF the Red Sox call… IF Terry Ryan will listen… IF the Red Sox would take on the entire contract… and IF the Twins could also get a top prospect (or two?) in return… would Mauer agree to a trade?

    Let’s just say that if, like me, you are one who never wants to see Joe Mauer in anything but a Twins uniform, we should probably hope it doesn’t come down to that last factor.

    - JC

    [EDIT: CORRECTIONS made to originally incorrect statements concerning the timing of Mauer's contract. Thanks for pointing out the error, Winston Smith.]
    This article was originally published in blog: Thinking the Unthinkable: Trade Joe Mauer? started by Jim Crikket
    Comments 55 Comments
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Any reason Mauer shouldn't be the leadoff hitter? I see a lot of people suggest #2, but I'm not sure why that makes more sense than leadoff. His OBP warrants as many at-bats as possible, I would think. But instead we get the same old "your best-average hitter is your #3" that the Twins have been running out there for as long as I can remember. Yeah, he's not a base-stealer, but I'll take someone being on base as often as possible over someone who's on-base less often but occasionally steals a base.

      I like the notion of the original post. If Boston says "I'd like to talk about Mauer" you have to listen. Honestly, I don't see much reason not to listen to anybody asking about anyone. "Interested in Sano, Buxton, and Gibson? Sure, what are you offering?" After you've heard them out you can always say no, but why not listen? I'd be really surprised to find out TR wouldn't even hear somebody out, even if I don't expect a whole lot of actual transactions. I won't speculate as to what's a fair offer, it's way outside my depth, but Mauer does seem like a good fit for Fenway.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      While Mauer could probably serve as an adequate leadoff hitter in a pinch, I think he'd be just as "out of position" there as he is at #3. To me, he's always been just about the perfect #2 and current management's aversion to just putting him there every night is one of my biggest frustrations with current field management. You have leadoff hitters who get on base with some frequency and have above average ability to steal 2B. In Mauer, you have a guy who (a) doesn't strike out much, (b) hits behind the runner well, (c) gets on base himself at a league-leading pace most years. That means your #3 hitter should come up with a runner on 3B and 1 out or runners on 1B and 2B with no outs an awful lot in the first inning of games. Instead, with lesser hitters at #2, your heart of the order is split from your leadoff man by a frequently wasted out.

      Mauer gets a lot of bashing around here and I suppose when you've managed to time your career-best season just one year before potentially hitting free agency, resulting in a near-obscene contract, the bashing comes with that territory. But he's been mismanaged by field staff and, from all appearances, by medical/training staff, as well. I do think he was too slow to embrace the idea of playing a few more games at positions other than catcher, but even that was as much field management's fault as his own.

      In the end, I would love to see Mauer spend his entire career with the Twins. But as others have stated, he is not going to single-handedly lead the Twins to championships. So either you commit to adding legitimate talent around him now, however you have to acquire that talent, while Mauer's still in his prime years and can legitimately help your team reach those lofty goals or you give serious consideration to seeing what other teams would offer for him. Keeping him around just to sell a few more jerseys and t-shirts in your gift shop is a waste of his time and the team's money.

      I think Terry Ryan is smart enough to know that and that's one reason I'm really anxious to see what the GM does over the next couple of months.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ericchri View Post
      Any reason Mauer shouldn't be the leadoff hitter? I see a lot of people suggest #2, but I'm not sure why that makes more sense than leadoff. His OBP warrants as many at-bats as possible, I would think. But instead we get the same old "your best-average hitter is your #3" that the Twins have been running out there for as long as I can remember. Yeah, he's not a base-stealer, but I'll take someone being on base as often as possible over someone who's on-base less often but occasionally steals a base.

      I like the notion of the original post. If Boston says "I'd like to talk about Mauer" you have to listen. Honestly, I don't see much reason not to listen to anybody asking about anyone. "Interested in Sano, Buxton, and Gibson? Sure, what are you offering?" After you've heard them out you can always say no, but why not listen? I'd be really surprised to find out TR wouldn't even hear somebody out, even if I don't expect a whole lot of actual transactions. I won't speculate as to what's a fair offer, it's way outside my depth, but Mauer does seem like a good fit for Fenway.
      If you only consider his ability to get on base and take a lot of pitches, then yes he would be a good leadoff hitter. But you usually want someone with good speed/base stealing ability to lead off, which Mauer is not. I suppose an argument for leading off could be based on they way the Yankees use Jeter. Jeter isn't a typical leadoff hitter either and his stats are very similar to Mauer's.
    1. ericchri's Avatar
      ericchri -
      Jeter is exactly who I was thinking of when I posted that. I guess it comes down to a philosophical thing, but when comparing Mauer's ~.410 OBP to what the Twins have to offer as an alternate (~.350 for Span, ~.330 for Revere), I think the difference is severe enough to warrant pretty serious consideration. If we had someone who could post a .380+ OBP and steal 30+ bases, I'd probably agree they should use that guy as leadoff, but with the options they have right now (obviously could change), I'd vote for Mauer.
    1. Jim Crikket's Avatar
      Jim Crikket -
      For me, the difference is that I don't think Jeter is as well suited to be a #2 hitter as Mauer is, so you might as well let Jeter lead off even though he's not an ideal leadoff hitter either. Additionally, while it may not look like it at the moment, usually Jeter also has a more potent group of hitters coming up behind him than Mauer does, which makes the ability to steal bases less important for the Yankees leadoff hitter than it does for whoever leads off for the Twins.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Mauer batted .372/.500/.514 with RISP (that's an OPS over 1.000). His BA, OBP and OPS with RISP was higher than Miguel Cabrera's. He also hit .397/.521/.569 w/RISP and 2 outs. For the season, in overall hitting, he was 4th in BA, 1st in OBP and 10th in OPS for the AL. Those numbers scream #3 batter...even without the HRs.

      People say he's too passive with RISP...that he'd rather take the walk. They think Willingham did better in that situation. Well, with RISP, Willingham had 205 plate appearances. He hit .287/.424/.535 and had 8 HR and 73 RBI. I've posted Mauer's line with RISP earlier in this post. He had 13 less plate appearances with RISP and only 1 less RBI. Yes, Mauer walked 40 times with RISP, but WIllingham walked 34 times with RISP. Willingham also stuck out 46 times w/RISP while Mauer struck out 22 times with RISP. Who did better w/RISP? Mauer.
    1. Dave T's Avatar
      Dave T -
      The Twins have lost 90 games for two straight seasons, and if you think it will be better next year, my answer is, it all starts with pitching. The Twins don't have any proven starters outside of Diamond, and he's not an ace. He's a solid #3-#5 pitcher. The Twins are in rebuilding mode.

      As for Mauer, I have no beef with his contract or his performance. He earns his money. He's not exactly a good fit for a rebuilding team though. Furthermore, as has been pointed out by others, he'd probably hit .400 playing for Boston. If Boston were willing to overpay for him, I'd do it. But why would Boston do that? They're rebuilding too.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      'P.S. I thought that an OPS of 1.000 really defined an "elite" batter.'

      No one in the Majors had an OPS of 1.000 or higher this year in the...not even Cabrera with his Triple Crown. Does that mean we had no elite hitters in the Majors this year?

      In the last 4 seasons, only 7 players have done it (only two have done it more than once in those 4 seasons...Pujols and Cabrera). In those 4 seasons, the most in one season was 4 (2010). Do we really have that few elite hitters in baseball? Not only that, one needs to take into account position. Is the players elite when considering the position he plays?
    1. johnnydakota's Avatar
      johnnydakota -
      if the twins trade joe , they need to look at texas, there in the win now mode, and they have a pair of kids at 3b and ss in olt and profar,who are blocked in the rangers org.and with hamilton coming off there payroll joe might look attractive,if we trade joe we need to trade justin to tornto for there AAA catcher dárnaud, yes we might have to throw in a few prospects like escobar hernandez or florimon but it would give us some solid players for the future... if ownership is not going to go for it in 2013 , they might as well build towards 2014 - 2015, so we might as well trade willingham to pittsburg for there prize pitching prospects cole and taillon, then span to the reds for hamilton (ss) and cingriani as long as we hold on to our top 5 prospects i am fine trading all the others except gibson....so either go after shields and another top of the rotation starter this year and 3 more quality relievers and maybe another quality middle infielder,or tear it down and look to the future
    1. jm3319's Avatar
      jm3319 -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Mauer batted .372/.500/.514 with RISP (that's an OPS over 1.000). His BA, OBP and OPS with RISP was higher than Miguel Cabrera's. He also hit .397/.521/.569 w/RISP and 2 outs. For the season, in overall hitting, he was 4th in BA, 1st in OBP and 10th in OPS for the AL. Those numbers scream #3 batter...even without the HRs.

      People say he's too passive with RISP...that he'd rather take the walk. They think Willingham did better in that situation. Well, with RISP, Willingham had 205 plate appearances. He hit .287/.424/.535 and had 8 HR and 73 RBI. I've posted Mauer's line with RISP earlier in this post. He had 13 less plate appearances with RISP and only 1 less RBI. Yes, Mauer walked 40 times with RISP, but WIllingham walked 34 times with RISP. Willingham also stuck out 46 times w/RISP while Mauer struck out 22 times with RISP. Who did better w/RISP? Mauer.

      I could not agree more. People hate on Mauer for taking a walk instead of getting a hit which is a stupid criticism. The site below show's Joe at 28th overall in RBI% and Willingham at 86. Just providing more info to back you up.

      http://www.baseballmusings.com/cgi-b...desc&MinPA=100
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      Mauer batted .372/.500/.514 with RISP (that's an OPS over 1.000). His BA, OBP and OPS with RISP was higher than Miguel Cabrera's. He also hit .397/.521/.569 w/RISP and 2 outs. For the season, in overall hitting, he was 4th in BA, 1st in OBP and 10th in OPS for the AL. Those numbers scream #3 batter...even without the HRs.

      People say he's too passive with RISP...that he'd rather take the walk. They think Willingham did better in that situation. Well, with RISP, Willingham had 205 plate appearances. He hit .287/.424/.535 and had 8 HR and 73 RBI. I've posted Mauer's line with RISP earlier in this post. He had 13 less plate appearances with RISP and only 1 less RBI. Yes, Mauer walked 40 times with RISP, but WIllingham walked 34 times with RISP. Willingham also stuck out 46 times w/RISP while Mauer struck out 22 times with RISP. Who did better w/RISP? Mauer.
      I really hope people are paying attention to this kind of thing. The fact is that confirmation bias and negativity domination rule the narratives we tell ourselves about baseball players. This holds probably moreso for baseball players given that a very good hitter doesn't get a hit 7 out of 10 times. Mauer is a dominant player.

      But back to the topic at hand. I think it's also correct to say that Mauer doesn't fit that well on a rebuilding team. If the Twins are going to blow it up and start over, they don't have a real use for Mauer. I don't think anyone who gets it really thinks that that is the best course of action (and yes, you know who you are), and so the best course of action is to build around Mauer with free agency, trades, etc. But you always listen to what's on offer.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      [QUOTE=70charger;58642]
      Quote Originally Posted by ThePuck View Post
      I really hope people are paying attention to this kind of thing.
      Thanks. I think if people looked at him honestly instead of looking at his income and THEN basing what he should be doing on that, they'd have a truer view of him. That contract didn't magically change the type of hitter he's been through most of his career into the 2009 version. He had a great year last year, he really did, and yet he's scapegoat to some. I will never understand that thinking.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      If your owner and GM want an $85 million budget, Mauer's contract is an issue. Mauer is probably worth the money in a vacuum, but is he worth it if his contact leaves you only 60 million or so on the other players. If one pitcher and one other hitter make, say, 10 million each, that leaves you around 45 or so million for the rest of the roster. That makes your margin for error extremely tiny on those other 20 plus players.
    1. ThePuck's Avatar
      ThePuck -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      If your owner and GM want an $85 million budget, Mauer's contract is an issue. Mauer is probably worth the money in a vacuum, but is he worth it if his contact leaves you only 60 million or so on the other players. If one pitcher and one other hitter make, say, 10 million each, that leaves you around 45 or so million for the rest of the roster. That makes your margin for error extremely tiny on those other 20 plus players.
      You need to be able to draft well, develop well, and be willing to part with the other players before they get too expensive. TB has built serious teams with around 60M and less over the last 5 years while playing in a much tougher division and taking in a lot less revenue
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      One team has been able to do it, and the Twins do not show a willingness to trade veterans until too late. Also, that team stunk for years, picked in the top five over and over to build up their system. They also run the team differently in terms of how they platoon and shift their defense. Nothing is similar other than budget. Like I said, it leaves a tiny margin for error.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.