• It's official: Twins announce Joe Mauer move to first base

    The Minnesota Twins' Dustin Morse announced via Twitter that the Twins will officially move Joe Mauer from catcher to first base for the 2014 season.

    In October, general manager Terry Ryan told Twins Daily in his offseason interview that the team was not planning for Mauer to move away from behind the plate and the transition from catching to first was ultimately Mauer's decision.

    "I'm not preparing for anything different than we prepared for last year," Ryan said. "That decision's still coming down to whether or not he wants to catch for sure. The good thing is he's, I would say, he's 95 percent right now, which is good. That's a decision that's going to come down on whether or not he wants to stay back there, and how much he wants to stay back there, and how much he wants to stay back there. But right now I'm preparing for him to be back there."

    The move obviously opens up questions as to the team's plans for catcher in 2014. Veteran Ryan Doumit also suffered a concussion that removed him from the position at the end of the year and Josmil Pinto, while promising in September, is still learning.

    Although Pinto's character and coachability have been lauded, there still is work defensively, said Ryan.

    "There were days that I was a little concerned. With any kid that comes up, you're not going to have a polished product," Ryan noted.

    In addition to Doumit and Pinto, Ryan mentioned minor leaguer Eric Fryer as a player who contributed positively in 2013 (albeit at the minor league level) and there are several free agent catching options available on the market.

    The team's official press release cites that while Mauer is symptom free from the concussion suffered late 2013, the increasingly inherent dangers of the position necessitated the move.
    Comments 101 Comments
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      This answers the age-old question: "Who's on first?" Clearly, Mauer must be in the line-up, so he has to play someplace. Pinto's audition last year showed he has major-league ability. Now he just needs to show he can make the continuous adjustments to stay successful. It matters not what is Mauer's salary with respect to where he plays--the die is cast. This change also eliminates the wasting of money signing a veteran 1B-man so all FA dollars can (and should be) focused on starting pitching. As before, the executive committee will do their job and set guidelines for spending--hopefully all spending will be toward solving the starting pitching problem.
    1. amjgt's Avatar
      amjgt -
      I think most people aren't looking at this quite right...

      Of course it's not a positive for the team. One of the best hitting catchers ever, moving to a position where his talents aren't a ton better than his peers is OF COURSE a bad thing.

      BUT....

      This isn't a "well what do you think... should we move him or keep him at catcher" decision. This is a necessary move to ensure than Mauer doesn't suffer a career ending injury. What were the chances of that happening? Based on like a third of the catchers in the league going on the 7day DL last year, I'd say chances are pretty darn good that he'd get another concussion in the next few years.

      The Twins can't risk having a $23M door stop. The Twins can certainly handle having a $23M above average hitting, highly marketable firstbaseman, who will likely be in the lineup every day and perhaps just tick up a little at the plate because of the less wear and tear on his body.
    1. zchrz's Avatar
      zchrz -
      Quote Originally Posted by Physics Guy View Post
      Doesn't anybody else think that his offensive production (and I don't mean counting stats) will improve when he isn't subjected to the grind of catching? I used to think that he was Mark Grace if he played 1B, but I think his numbers improve because he will be physically less worn down.
      This is what I have been thinking as well. Now he is going to have his legs under him, get less banged up, and have a heck of a lot more time to just focus on hitting since he presumably won't be going to all the catchers meetings and what not. Sure he might not have the prototypical power for the position but he is still a hitting machine and Sano will be providing a lot of power from the other side of the infield soon enough.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Whether this decision came now, during spring training, next winter, or some time even later, it was coming. It was, in fact, long overdue IMO.

      I'm glad they finally made it and can now move forward with the "Mauer out from behind the plate" decision in the past and as part of the planning process going forward. Furthermore, I hope this is just the first of many smart and reality-based moves this winter that address the crux of the situation and at least get a good start on putting the next good Twins team on the field sooner than later.
    1. Zephrin's Avatar
      Zephrin -
      I'm more sad from a legacy standpoint than a stats standpoint. Mauer could have gone down as a top 5 catcher all-time. Right up there with Berra and Bench. I think Mauer will be fine playing 1B. Maybe even all-star level. But he doesn't have a chance of being one of the greatest 1B of all time. As a lifelong Twins fan, I like to see our players remembered through the ages, and not just in Twins Territory.
    1. amjgt's Avatar
      amjgt -
      Part of me wonders if Mauer will go down as one of the last all-around great catchers. Unbelievable offense (for a catcher) as well as really good on defense.

      As concussions become more and more of an issue, I think that players with Mauer's offensive abilities are going to be ushered to other positions. Organizations will tell themselves that it's just not worth the risk to keep that player at a high risk position.

      In that regard, Mauer could be highly regarded over future years, especially since it's the very injury that teams are worried about that forced Mauer to make a switch from his "natural" position.
    1. Knotholemike's Avatar
      Knotholemike -
      So Parmelee, Colabello and possibly Plouffe fight it out for right field/DH. At least one, and most likely two of them are gone by the end of 2014 unless Willingham bounces back and is traded before the deadline.
    1. Knotholemike's Avatar
      Knotholemike -
      Quote Originally Posted by amjgt View Post
      The Twins can't risk having a $23M door stop. The Twins can certainly handle having a $23M above average hitting, highly marketable firstbaseman, who will likely be in the lineup every day and perhaps just tick up a little at the plate because of the less wear and tear on his body.
      Exactly. At this point all the Twins are trying to do is to get something out of the $23M per year. The rest of it is a sunk cost; water under the bridge.
    1. spideyo's Avatar
      spideyo -
      I would be willing to bet money that this really was a situation where they said "Joe, it's your decision, but here's a deadline we'd like to know by so we can adjus our offseason plans accordingly"

      I do think Morneau probably was a bigger influence on this than anything, both because of his history with concussions, and if this switch was made while Morneau was still with the team (or had entered FA straight from the Twins) it could have looked like Mauer was pushing Morneau out the door, and I don't think Mauer would have been willing to go along with that.

      I do think he has more worth as a Catcher than a first basemen, and it does sadden me to see him walk away from a position where he arguably was one of the best ever. Maybe this is what takes though, for them to finally make serious improvents to catcher's safety and better concussion protection and treatment.

      From an organization standpoint, it does work out for the best I think. While I like Collabello and Parmelee, I think they've bother missed their window at being MLB superstars (or even regular starters on competitive teams). Pinto's future on the other hand, is very bright. On top of that, if you are going to bring in a FA for one of those spots, there is a MUCH better crop of catchers than 1B.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      It isn't clear why the Twins should sign another catcher unless it is to go big with McCann or Salty. How isn't AJ a waste of time given the Twins aren't going to be legitimate until 2015 anyway?

      By the way, I bet McCann goes to Red Sox or Rangers, and Salty goes to the Rangers or White Sox.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I'm not sure this is the right decision. I still think he should get some reps back there. Pinto looks like he can be a decent catcher... not Mauer good, but good.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      I understand this but I still don't like it. I think this is a bigger blow to the rebuilding process than most seem to think. It would've been nice to have him at a premium position in the early stages of our hopeful resurgence.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      I think this will be good for Mauer's value overall. It reduces his ceiling, since a good-hitting catcher is so valuable, but playing first should allow him to play more games and decline more slowly in general as he ages.

      Mauer could easily be a 4 WAR first baseman initially, which would basically 'earn' his salary from a production standpoint.
    1. benchwarmerjim's Avatar
      benchwarmerjim -
      maybe a discussion for another day, but the broader issue here is (and Minnesota Twins fans are aware of this with past injuries) that concussions are not limited to the football field and hockey rinks. And you gotta wonder if the MLB and the MLBPA and the equipment manufacturers are doing anything to improve catching equipment to reduce the chances for concussions.
    1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
      Oldgoat_MN -
      Quote Originally Posted by benchwarmerjim View Post
      maybe a discussion for another day, but the broader issue here is (and Minnesota Twins fans are aware of this with past injuries) that concussions are not limited to the football field and hockey rinks. And you gotta wonder if the MLB and the MLBPA and the equipment manufacturers are doing anything to improve catching equipment to reduce the chances for concussions.
      They are. They came up with the new titanium mask.
      From what I've read, nearly every catcher who got a concussion last year was wearing one.
      Apparently they need to try again.

      Well, Mauer was a really fun catcher to watch.
      And fortunately, as raindog said, "His bat plays everywhere".
    1. D. Hocking's Avatar
      D. Hocking -
      I was kind of wondering if the new "better" mask they gave him last year might have actually contributed to his getting the concussion.

      Reading some of his quotes from the press conference, it sounds like there were days post-concussion where he could barely function. Shockingly, I think they downplayed how he was actually doing making it seem that he could come back anytime and he was probably not even close to being able to play. I did hear one audio clip from the press conference, and not surprisingly he sounded pretty down about it (well - as much you can determine Mauer's emotion from his sometimes less than expressive voice?).

      It is kind of a bummer to his catcher career end, but realistically, even without the concussion this day probably was not that far down the future. Too bad it had to happen like this, and that Joe did not have more control over his transition.
    1. mikecgrimes's Avatar
      mikecgrimes -
      It sounds like this has a lot to do with the concussion so really thats the end of the discussion. I know he won't be dinged up often and his legs will be stronger, but this idea that means he will be a better offensive player I think is asking to much. It's asking an awful lot just to equal his 3rd best season at this point. Yes he is still in the end of his prime, but the years of catching don't go away. If he can equal last year plus 30 more games thats about all you can expect, he might hit 20 points higher he might hit 20 points lower, and at this point age could catch up with him at any point so dipping below .300 from this point forward would be no shock. If he finds a way to hit .350 with 20 HR great, but I don't expect it.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      I understand this but I still don't like it. I think this is a bigger blow to the rebuilding process than most seem to think. It would've been nice to have him at a premium position in the early stages of our hopeful resurgence.
      I disagree and think it's beneficial to the rebuilding. It's finalized and the Twins can start making other moves with Mauer set in one position instead of not being able to sign player X (like Abreu) to a longish contract because they have to keep the spot open for Mauer in 1 or 2 or 3 or X number of years. And this is exactly the reason that the Twins had zero interest in Abreu (imo).

      this move also makes it more likely that Mauer is still really valuable during the Twins resurgence.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      Good for Joe
      Best for his long term future and family.
      Big bummer for the team though.
      His "value" goes down significantly and it makes his contract much too high
    1. Bark's Lounge's Avatar
      Bark's Lounge -
      I am very pleased the position change has finally happened. I totally understand the disappointment of the people who wanted Mauer to remain at catcher a few more years - it is rare to have such an extraordinary hitter play catcher and play it well.

      We have probably seen Mauer's best offensive season (2009), but in my heart of hearts I do not believe we have seen his second or maybe even third best season offensively.

      Playing 1B will enable him raise the bar offensively and if I were a betting man, I predict there is a handful of .900+ OPS seasons in wait - and dare I say one or two more 20+ HR seasons.

      I am looking forward to it.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.