• Mauer's Not Going Anywhere

    Don't buy into the hype. Joe Mauer isn't getting traded.Ask yourself this question, and be honest in your reply: If Joe Mauer were becoming a free agent this offseason, is there any chance ANY chance, whatsoever that he would fetch a six-year, $138 million contract?

    I think the answer is pretty clearly no. That's the prorated remaining portion of the eight-year contract Mauer signed with the Twins after a 2009 season in which he was arguably baseball's best player. He was 26, he was one of the game's most popular players and he was as healthy as he'd ever been.

    That was then, and this is now. In three seasons since, Mauer has hit .311/.393/.429 impressive numbers but nowhere near the otherworldly stats he compiled in his MVP campaign. He has been besieged by injuries, missing a quarter of his team's games. And as he prepares to enter his 30s, he has already begun to transition away from catcher.

    Mauer is a great player and a tremendous asset. But any way you slice it, his value has declined pretty sharply over the past three seasons, which is largely a testament to how insanely high it was at the time he re-upped with the Twins.

    My point in all this is to say that no baseball team is going to give up quality prospects for the right to absorb Mauer's enormous and substantially risky contract. For all the hubbub about the catcher being put through waivers earlier this week an extremely routine and procedural move that probably shouldn't have been reported in such provocative terms the truth is that Terry Ryan would have been a fool not to expose Mauer to the league. He said as much himself.

    If some team were to go crazy like the Dodgers and offer up good young players to take on more than $100 million in salary commitments (extraordinarily unlikely since that bonanza was basically unprecedented), shouldn't the Twins at least hear them out? There is no downside to testing the waters, and certainly no player should be considered flat-out untradable by anyone when it comes to a rebuilding team.

    As you'd expect, Ryan got no bites. Because no team is in position to do what Los Angeles did. Had that wacky trade not gone down so recently, this "story" would have been a passing note rather than a daylong talking point.

    Mauer's oversized contract and full no-trade clause make it extremely improbable that he'll be moved, now or in the future. I mean extremely improbable like Jim Carrey so-you're-telling-me-there's-a-chance improbable. It might be fun to daydream about what kind of impact such an outlandish move might have, but at the end of the day such thoughts are nothing more.
    This article was originally published in blog: Mauer's Not Going Anywhere started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 34 Comments
    1. SpiritofVodkaDave's Avatar
      SpiritofVodkaDave -
      *If Mauer were to be a free agent this year, I wonder what type of deal he could be looking at. Looking at the numbers, he will have played in 137+ games in 4 of the last five seasons, and in those seasons posted OPS+ of 132, 134, 140 and 171.

      Mauer still has the ability to be the primary Catcher and has shown no signs of breaking down this year (2011 looks to be the exception to his past 5 or 6 years).

      A guy like Werth just got 7 years 121 million for worse production at the plate, was 3 years older and doesn't play a premium position.

      Whilt 6 years/138 mil would prob be a bit to high, I'd have to imagine Joe could easily get 5-6 years at 20+ mil on the open market. With that said, I'm sure there are some teams that would gladly take Mauer for his contract alone at this point:
      Boston, LAD, Rangers and even the Mariners come to mind as teams that would be interested. I'm guessing the reason he went unclaimed is that those teams knew that he wouldn't be let go for nothing, and the asking price would be rather high. There is a zero percent chance that Ryan lets Mauer go for anything less than a package headlined by multiple top tier prospects, and even then the Twins take a massive PR hit.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Thanks for this article, Nick. I was flabbergasted last night to see speculation. Anyway, imagine the difference between the 8/184 million and a 7/184 million contract. Sure they would be throwing out more per year, but when things start to actually decline in 2015 for Mauer, there would be only 2 years and 53 million-ish vs. 3 years and 69 million. It's the post 2015 years that worry me with this contract as by that time the comparison with Jason Kendall might begin to make sense.

      Anyway, good article to stop the hysteria.
    1. jharaldson's Avatar
      jharaldson -
      If some team were to go crazy like the Dodgers and offer up good young players to take on more than $100 million in salary commitments (extraordinarily unlikely since that bonanza was basically unprecedented),
      It wasn't 100% unprecedented, the Angels took on $86 million in salary in Vernon Wells. Great prospects were not involved but the Jays did get Mike Napoli for Wells.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Did the Twins place their entire roster on waivers?
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      There is also the added factor that Joe Mauer is -- and will always be -- more valuable to the Minnesota Twins organization than he could ever be anywhere else. There is no question in my mind that Mauer sells more jerseys, tickets, etc. in Minnesota than he would elsewhere.

      I don't like the incorporation of marketing/pr decisions into the baseball side of the equation and I hope that the Twins will avoid it from here on out. But Mauer was a unique case. It is not very often than you have a player drafted, developed and signed by his hometown team -- plus go on to have Mauer's accomplishments.

      The Twins clearly took that into account in the size of Mauer's contract -- and it is clearly (at least to me) a more substantial pr/goodwill amount than he would generate elsewhere (actually, my feeling is that many markets would find him pretty blah in terms of pr value).

      I was glad they put him through waivers. Just like I want to see them put most players through waivers. Given the current state of this team, they need to see what they can parlay into parts that would better serve this team in the long run. But it is absolutely not a surprise that no one bit (or at least not very hard).
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by SpiritofVodkaDave View Post
      *If Mauer were to be a free agent this year, I wonder what type of deal he could be looking at. Looking at the numbers, he will have played in 137+ games in 4 of the last five seasons, and in those seasons posted OPS+ of 132, 134, 140 and 171.

      Mauer still has the ability to be the primary Catcher and has shown no signs of breaking down this year (2011 looks to be the exception to his past 5 or 6 years).

      A guy like Werth just got 7 years 121 million for worse production at the plate, was 3 years older and doesn't play a premium position.

      Whilt 6 years/138 mil would prob be a bit to high, I'd have to imagine Joe could easily get 5-6 years at 20+ mil on the open market. With that said, I'm sure there are some teams that would gladly take Mauer for his contract alone at this point:
      Boston, LAD, Rangers and even the Mariners come to mind as teams that would be interested. I'm guessing the reason he went unclaimed is that those teams knew that he wouldn't be let go for nothing, and the asking price would be rather high. There is a zero percent chance that Ryan lets Mauer go for anything less than a package headlined by multiple top tier prospects, and even then the Twins take a massive PR hit.
      Are you SURE? They just had the chance to give it a try, at no cost to them, and every one of those teams declined to put in a waiver claim (if reports are true).

      There's no way Mauer gets 6/$138 this winter. No way. He's become today--in year 2 of an 8 year deal--what you would have hoped he'd be in year 8 of the deal when you signed him. He's a part time position player with no obvious place to move (although I think he can and should move off catcher), with no power, and long term health questions.
    1. StormJH1's Avatar
      StormJH1 -
      Nick - Absolutely dead right with this article, well done. The question you asked about 6 years/138 million for a part-time catcher about to turn 30 is the relevant question here. Ironically, there's fans in this town that undervalue Mauer's importance to the Twins, while OVERvaluing what he'd be "worth" to another team, say, the Boston Red Sox. People seem to want to go back and re-evaluate the merits of the 8 yr/184 million deal, but that's not how it works. And the reality is that you can look at virtually ANY $20+ million/yr long-term contract, and nobody in their right mind would sign up only for the 2nd half of those deals. Teams agree to the 2nd half because they want and need the production of the younger player in the 1st half.

      And while I've been a critic of Mauer's vis a vis the size of his contract, JB_Iowa makes a terrific point which people in this market seem to take for granted. Ever since Mauer's first breakout season in 2006, we started hearing about how much more marketable Mauer would be as a "brand" if he played baseball in New York instead of Minnesota. I think that's completely backwards. There are lots of great baseball players who are perceived to be quality guys and good looking guys popular with female fans. Mauer's importance locally as a hometown product is almost impossible to measure because it's been the Twins' reality since he came through the system. Who knows what this franchise looks like and how the fans would respond to it (and an expensive new stadium) had he been drafted somewhere else.

      And nationally, I think Mauer's persona as an "aww shucks", shy, just-a-little-boring Midwestern guy works much better with who he is. Or, to put it another way, Joe already does endorsements Sony Playstation, Head and Shoulders, Kemp's Ice Cream, State of Minnesota tourism, and countless others I'm probably forgetting. How many would he have needed in a "bigger market"?

      Mauer is uniquely valuable here. I think that's why the normally tight ownership of the Twins spared no expense (and really got no noticeable hometown discount) to keep him. But as an outside team looking to acquire him, you can't pick up that contract and have any reasonable expectation of getting your money's worth. That does make Mauer the scum of the Earth, he's still a terrific ballplayer. But that's the harsh reality of baseball economics.
    1. SeanS7921's Avatar
      SeanS7921 -
      This season Joe Mauer out of the top 15 highest paid players in the game right now has the 4th best WAR (3.8). So, uh yeah the Twins are getting a lot of value from him. Nobody claimed Mauer (if he was put out there) because there is no need. They would have a day to workout a trade in one day. I'm sure plenty of teams would be interested in trading for Mauer in the off-season AND take his entire contract for a reasonable return. Top 100 prospect and maybe a couple of B level guys. If a team trades for Alex Rios (3 years of suck 1 good year), Vernon Wells (all suck) and now Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford AND Beckett then yeah I think the Twins can trade Mauer and get average return. There is no need to do so, if Mauer does what he has this year going forward he is outstanding value. I'd bet he would play more catcher as well if the Twins were in contention but there is no need with this season.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      This season Joe Mauer out of the top 15 highest paid players in the game right now has the 4th best WAR (3.8). So, uh yeah the Twins are getting a lot of value from him. Nobody claimed Mauer (if he was put out there) because there is no need. They would have a day to workout a trade in one day. I'm sure plenty of teams would be interested in trading for Mauer
      Mauer's WAR is overinflated as its computation is derived from a positional adjustment as a C, which he currently plays at only about a 47% rate.

      How many teams do you define as "plenty"?, you mentioned 3 teams that are in a position that- force them- and/or are readily willing- to assume substantial risk. There really aren't that many teams ready to do that. And as you said, the Twins gain little, more likely nothing, with an "average return".

      You are right, again, that Mauer would play more catcher if the games were consequential, but you can't criticize the effort that Ryan made to ensure at keeping Mauer on the field as much as possible and fully healthy. There's also the proviso that playing more C now puts too much tire-wear on the career-productivity-tread in the last 4 out-years of the contract.
    1. Curt's Avatar
      Curt -
      [QUOTE=jokin;50911]
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      Mauer's WAR is overinflated as its computation is derived from a positional adjustment as a C, which he currently plays at only about a 47% rate.
      Do the folks who created WAR know about this? They seem to be a pretty detail-oriented bunch. It amazes me that something like this should slip by them.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      I'd bet he would play more catcher as well if the Twins were in contention but there is no need with this season.
      Were the Twins out of contention by mid April? Because he wasn't a full time catcher then, either.

      Your point seems to be Mauer can be a full time catcher, but the Twins won't play him as a full time catcher, because if they did, he wouldn't be able to be a full time catcher.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      [QUOTE=Curt;50918]
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      Mauer's WAR is overinflated as its computation is derived from a positional adjustment as a C, which he currently plays at only about a 47% rate.
      Do the folks who created WAR know about this? They seem to be a pretty detail-oriented bunch. It amazes me that something like this should slip by them.
      The positional adjustments are:
      +1.0 wins C
      +0.5 SS/CF
      +0.0 2B/3B
      -0.5 LF/RF/PH
      -1.0 1B
      -1.5 DH
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Baseball Reference has Mauer's WAR computed at 2.6, ranking him 34th overall in the AL, slightly behind Mike Moustakis (2.7) and Shin-Soo Choo (2.8) and virtually tied with Michael Brantley and Kyle Seager.

      Over a full season, a WAR of 8+ is MVP caliber, a WAR of 5+ is All Star caliber, a WAR of 2+ is Starter caliber, a WAR of 0-2 is Reserve level. Joe has a good shot at ~3.0 for a full season.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/le...-batting.shtml
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by SeanS7921 View Post
      This season Joe Mauer out of the top 15 highest paid players in the game right now has the 4th best WAR (3.8). So, uh yeah the Twins are getting a lot of value from him. Nobody claimed Mauer (if he was put out there) because there is no need. They would have a day to workout a trade in one day. I'm sure plenty of teams would be interested in trading for Mauer in the off-season AND take his entire contract for a reasonable return.
      Do you seriously believe there's a bunch of GMs out there that are judging Mauer solely on the basis of his WAR? Sorry to break it to you, but I doubt that particular metric weighs very heavily on the minds of many front office execs. People using WAR in this sense, as a be-all end-all dictator of a player's value, is what's given it such a bad rep. It's a fun and sometimes telling little theoretical stat, nothing more.

      If you are determined to use WAR as the sole basis for your argument, though, why are we comparing Mauer to the 15 highest paid players in the game? That's irrelevant. A GM looking to improve his club would ask himself how Mauer stacks up against the entire league; he'd likely ask himself whether a guy who ranks 27th among MLB hitters in WHIP (in a good year) is worth being one of the four highest paid.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      C'mon,
      Mauer will go into the Hall of Fame, wearing a Twins cap. Compare his batting titles, MVP award, All-Star appearances, Gold Gloves, and careers stats with any other AL catcher on the books. His lock on the HOF is as close to a "done deal" as any active player on a MLB roster, not named Thome.

      Trading his inflated contract for an unknown story and Twins legacy just doesn't make sense. The front office will continue to ride this horse--whether he maintains into his thirties or breaks down in the coming years. The question is whether or not the front office can put the right players around Mauer.

      The Twins traded Rod Carew for Ken Landreaux, Dave Engle, Paul Hartzell, and Brad Havens. Call me sentimental, but that wasn't enough for the prospect of knowing that Carew could have been a career Twin.

      Everybody has a price, and I guess the Twins wanted to see how high Mauer's price might be. But, believe me, the strong likelihood of seeing our homegrown boy enter the Hall is worth more to me than a handful of top "prospects."

      Just sayin,
      Don't Feed the Greed.
    1. BeefMaster's Avatar
      BeefMaster -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Mauer's WAR is overinflated as its computation is derived from a positional adjustment as a C, which he currently plays at only about a 47% rate.
      Is this actually true? I was under the impression that WAR calculations are scaled based on the percentage of a players' appearances at that position - for example, if Mauer gets 200 PA as a catcher, 200 PA at first, and 200 PA at DH, he'd then get 200 PA worth of the positional adjustment for each position when calculating his WAR. As thorough as FanGraphs and the like are in their calculations, that seems like a pretty obvious one - it's not like Mauer's the first guy to play more than one position in a season.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by BeefMaster View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Mauer's WAR is overinflated as its computation is derived from a positional adjustment as a C, which he currently plays at only about a 47% rate.
      Is this actually true? I was under the impression that WAR calculations are scaled based on the percentage of a players' appearances at that position - for example, if Mauer gets 200 PA as a catcher, 200 PA at first, and 200 PA at DH, he'd then get 200 PA worth of the positional adjustment for each position when calculating his WAR. As thorough as FanGraphs and the like are in their calculations, that seems like a pretty obvious one - it's not like Mauer's the first guy to play more than one position in a season.
      Repost for you:

      Baseball Reference has Mauer's WAR computed at 2.6, ranking him 34th overall in the AL, slightly behind Mike Moustakis (2.7) and Shin-Soo Choo (2.8) and virtually tied with Michael Brantley and Kyle Seager.

      Over a full season, a WAR of 8+ is MVP caliber, a WAR of 5+ is All Star caliber, a WAR of 2+ is Starter caliber, a WAR of 0-2 is Reserve level. Joe has a good shot at ~3.0 for a full season.

      http://www.baseball-reference.com/le...-batting.shtml
    1. SeanS7921's Avatar
      SeanS7921 -
      Fan Graphs is the way to judge value. Baseball Reference obviously sucks if it compares Mauer's season to the other players mentioned. Since he is hitting over 300 with an OBP of over 400.
      I compare Joe Mauer to the other highest paid players because look at his performance compared to those! AND those guys are getting traded! If Vernon Wells or Carl Crawford are going to get traded at their salary then Mauer could easily be traded.
      If you then introduce performance and WAR is a great indicator of overall performance he would be a likely high level player that makes a lot of money to trade because a bunch of other guys who don't perform and make as much money as he does for close to the same amount of years DO get traded.
      Obviously GMs aren't looking at WAR because they take on huge contracts with much worse performance.
      Joe Mauer WAR Fan Graphs - 3.8
      The Yankees, The Red Sox, the Rangers, the Dodgers, the Tigers and the Angels would all probably consider Mauer under certain cirumstances.
      Everybody says full-time catcher but what does that mean? That he plays 140+ games at catcher? Guess what? Nobody started over 140 games at catcher last year. And only 3 started over 130 games. So what is full time? Do I think Mauer could catch 90-100 games at catcher if required if the Twins were in contention? Yes, without a doubt and with his hitting ability that's great value.
    1. Curt's Avatar
      Curt -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      The positional adjustments are:
      +1.0 wins C
      +0.5 SS/CF
      +0.0 2B/3B
      -0.5 LF/RF/PH
      -1.0 1B
      -1.5 DH
      From baseball-reference.com:
      To compute a player's Positional adjustment Runs, we add together for each non-pitching position: Position multiplier (from above) innings played at position / 1,350 Innings. For players who are only pitchers this is Pitcher Positional Adjustment (from below) (PA/4) / 150.

      It looks to me like the positional adjustments are proportional to the amount of time played at each position.
    1. SeanS7921's Avatar
      SeanS7921 -
      And when you discuss a position player all you bring up Nelson is crappy OPS and then have the nerve to rip on WAR as a good indicator of performance. WAR is a much better indicator ask Keith Law for a not super crazy advanced stat to judge value.
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