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  • 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. TopGunn#22's Avatar
      TopGunn#22 -
      This is the right move. It was bound to happen sometime and now it's sooner rather than later. A vet catcher (preferably one that hits LH) would be a perfect bridge for Pinto and his continued development. As was pointed out elsewhere, Mauer is a monster at on base percentage. His power may even take a slight uptick absent the wear and tear of catcher. This is a good thing.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post
      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.
      I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that it wasn't Abreu's position that was the reason the Twins didn't pursue him.

      Further, it absolutely hurts the rebuilding. Whatever small, I'd argue trivial, distinction there is in knowing what position Mauer is playing is exponentially out-weighed by taking his bat away from a premium position. This will hurt the team's offense now and in the future. They could overcome it certainly, but it's yet another hurdle to a team with quite a few in their path already.

      Hopefully they overcome it, but anyone who says they weren't hoping two or three years ago to rebuild the team around an elite player at a premium position is lying. That was one of the Twins most advantageous factors in rebuilding - they had a young star at a difficult position to fill already in the fold. Now they don't.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      After Mauer's concussion, I went 100% onboard with him moving full-time to first base. I echo what many have said here that having him play first for 140+ games is better than having him catch 80, DH 25 and play first for 20. I think Mauer's offense will tick up a bit, that the catchers will hit about league average.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      It is for the best. Probably means that both Pinto and Herrmann make the club if the Twins do not sign a veteran catcher. Also probably means the Collabello and Parmelee do not. Twins may have to trade Doumit if they want to keep Collabello. Expect Willingham, Pressley, and Arcia to be the Twins OF with Mastro as the fourth outfielder to start. When Willingham is traded than Sano will come out and Plouffe could platoon in right with Arcia moving to left. Team will have many changes next year.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Thanks for posting this link snepp. It's a good story, if anyone wants to click ver.

      If Joe thinks it's the right thing to do, then it's necessary and the right thing to do. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking this is a positive development for the team or for Mauer professionally.

      This year at catcher, Mauer's 880 OPS ranked 1st. At first base it ranked 6th. At catcher, Mauer is a Hall-of-Famer. At first base, it's not totally clear he's an All-Star.

      I'm not worried about the money or the contract - I don't see any evidence that if the Twins had an extra $10M that they would spend it anyway. But that catcher position suddenly has a lot of eggs in Josmil Pinto's basket. If he and Doumit don't thrive, that position could become an absolute sinkhole.

      One year from now, I can foresee a tremendous amount of angst on these boards directed towards how we're going to fix the catcher spot if Pinto needs more time than the 151 AB he's had over Double-A ball.
    1. Joe A. Preusser's Avatar
      Joe A. Preusser -
      Am I the only one who thinks that Mauer being the primary 1st baseman might actually boost his HR numbers? He could realistically bulk up quite a bit now that he doesn't have the much more physically and athletically demanding position behind the plate. Mobility isn't much of a factor at all for a 1B, so combine 20 pounds of extra muscle with Mauer's awesome hands and bat speed and maybe we're in for 25 HR this year? Also, fresh knees mean a stronger base when hitting, so even in his current physique he could hit for much more power. I am going on record right now that he breaks 20 HR in 2014, maybe approaches 30 HR.
    1. darin617's Avatar
      darin617 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Winston Smith View Post
      100% correct thing to do. Now sign AJ!
      My words exactly! But this will never happen. 2 simple reasons why it won't happen.
      1. Gardy is still the manager and I don't think he would want AJ back, even though he would be perfect for the team and bring a little attitude and swagger back to the Twins.
      2. AJ is a quality player that would never waste his time and talents playing for a bottom feeding team that doesn't care about contending for a few more years.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      One year from now, I can foresee a tremendous amount of angst on these boards directed towards how we're going to fix the catcher spot if Pinto needs more time than the 151 AB he's had over Double-A ball.
      Exactly. Much better said than I've been trying to express. Right now there is no long-term replacement. That's going to be a huge hurdle any way you slice it.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Well if the Yankees are serious about McCann that would put Cervelli and Stewart out of a job. Both would be good pickups IMO and might be had for a nominal prospect.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Of course there are negatives associated with this situation but to me, they are outweighed by the risk factors and the positives.

      1. It is a very good thing that Mauer made his decision fairly early in the offseason so that the Twins have time to react and to incorporate his status in their offseason strategy.

      2. The concussion and injury risks associated with playing first base have got to be lower than those associated with catching.

      3. Does anyone still remember when the Twins were actually winning and one of the biggest complaints about Mauer was that he didn't play on "get away" days? The position switch should substantially increase the likelihood that fans will get to see the Twins biggest draw actually play.

      4. I agree with Joe Preusser that Mauer's power numbers should improve with the switch. I have no doubt that Mauer will become an elite defensive first baseman and, even if we don't see those 20 homers, I'm hopeful that his doubles will again go up. But a lot of that is dependent on the Twins putting some players around him that pose at least a bit of a threat. Let's face it, no hitter operates in a vacuum.

      Mauer still has five years to play under his current contract (and hopefully 60 or more years to live as a husband and a father). IMHO this move maximizes the odds that he will be successful at all of those things.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      Powers column is kind of interesting: http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_...es-painful-but
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      This year at catcher, Mauer's 880 OPS ranked 1st. At first base it ranked 6th. At catcher, Mauer is a Hall-of-Famer. At first base, it's not totally clear he's an All-Star.
      A rate stat isn't a good choice for this comparison, because at 1B Mauer should get significantly more PAs than he would at C (especially over the full 5 years left on his contract).

      Not only that, but his later years are relatively more important because the Twins could theoretically be competitive by then. We know they won't be in 2014.

      First base isn't what it used to be offensively. Take a look at the leaderboards in 2013- there is not a lot of exceptional production. Chris Davis was the only first baseman in the AL that had a really big year. Encarnacion is a DH now. Fielder isn't what he was. Who knows what Pujols will do going forward. The NL has Votto and Goldschmidt, but not a lot of depth either.

      Mauer at 1B is not a problem for the Twins.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by drivlikejehu View Post
      Mauer at 1B is not a problem for the Twins.
      No, but now catcher might be. That's the point I think you missed in John's post.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Powers column is kind of interesting: http://www.twincities.com/sports/ci_...es-painful-but
      From the story....

      He'll no doubt go from being an all-star catcher to an all-star first baseman. I just hope he cheers up by spring training. The announcement of the position switch was billed as "joint," meaning both the Twins and Mauer would share in spreading the news. But Mauer was miserable. We could tell by his voice. He admitted it took him a long time to say yes to the switch and added how disappointed he was at having to make the move for health reasons.
      I wonder if Mauer doesn't reconsider this at some point. Maybe not this offseason, but maybe next. I wonder if, as the concussion effects fade, he'll start to doubt the move. I could see him having a tougher time walking away than he originally thought.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      Quote Originally Posted by drivlikejehu View Post
      A rate stat isn't a good choice for this comparison, because at 1B Mauer should get significantly more PAs than he would at C (especially over the full 5 years left on his contract).

      Not only that, but his later years are relatively more important because the Twins could theoretically be competitive by then. We know they won't be in 2014.
      It's a fair point, but I also think the concerns about how much he played were always overstated, and that was especially true over the last couple of years, when cutting back on his time behind the plate kept him in the lineup a lot more.

      Before the concussion, which cost him almost 1/4 of the year, he had 500+ plate appearances already. Last year he had 641 PAs. That's a lot of PAs. There isn't more than a couple of players per team that get 650 PAs.

      I just looked up Morneau's totals, who really prided himself on being out there everyday. He had 3 seasons where he exceeded that level - 711, 668, 661. We'll need to see, I guess. I hope he can get 660 plate appearances and above.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      Quote Originally Posted by TheLeviathan View Post
      No, but now catcher might be. That's the point I think you missed in John's post.
      Except for the fact that the Twins don't have a first baseman other than Mauer. Two positions, one player... either choice leaves a hole.
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by drivlikejehu View Post
      Except for the fact that the Twins don't have a first baseman other than Mauer. Two positions, one player... either choice leaves a hole.
      Right, but which one is easier to fill?

      The Twins haven't been grooming anyone. Only in the last two drafts have they seemed to show an interest in adding catching. Basically, they're unprepared to fill the position once Mauer moves. First base can generally be filled MUCH more easily than catcher.
    1. howieramone's Avatar
      howieramone -
      Joe is the rare athlete who could have played Division I in three sports. I agree with the poster who suggested Joe would bulk up. To be the best 1B in baseball he needs to hit HR's. I think over time Joe will hit more HR's.
    1. Kwak's Avatar
      Kwak -
      Quote Originally Posted by John Bonnes View Post
      Thanks for posting this link snepp. It's a good story, if anyone wants to click ver.

      If Joe thinks it's the right thing to do, then it's necessary and the right thing to do. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking this is a positive development for the team or for Mauer professionally.

      This year at catcher, Mauer's 880 OPS ranked 1st. At first base it ranked 6th. At catcher, Mauer is a Hall-of-Famer. At first base, it's not totally clear he's an All-Star.

      I'm not worried about the money or the contract - I don't see any evidence that if the Twins had an extra $10M that they would spend it anyway. But that catcher position suddenly has a lot of eggs in Josmil Pinto's basket. If he and Doumit don't thrive, that position could become an absolute sinkhole.
      One year from now, I can forsee a tremendous amount of angst on these boards directed towards how we're going to fix the catcher spot if Pinto needs more time than the 151 AB he's had over double-A ball.
      This "angst" was inevitable. Even 1000 AB at AAA ball wouldn't eliminate the concern. I assume you mean Hicks-like results by Pinto rather than the Murcer following Mantle scenario. This happens every time a team decides to replace one player with a rookie. Ergo, consider the angst when the dynamic duo (trio?) are finally promoted to the Twins. There is so much riding on their success that the "angst" will be huge. Pinto doesn't have to hit as well as Mauer to be a success.
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