You might have missed the news with the hoopla of the NCAA tournament over the weekend, but the Minnesota Twins signed All Star catcher Joe Mauer to an 8 year, $184 million deal.  Obviously, $23 million per year is a lot of money for any player, but I think this deal makes a lot of sense for the Twins.  I’ll tell you why.

It prevents fan defection

The Twins have, historically, been a bit, er, frugal.  This in spite of the fact that former owner Carl Pohlad actually had more money than Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.  Steinbrenner ran the Yankees as a hobby and desired to have World Series championships.  Pohlad ran the Twins more like a business, actually paying attention to the bottom line.  In a smaller media market such as Minneapolis, this often meant having players like Johan Santana and Torii Hunter leave to pursue more money elsewhere.

Mauer has always been a special fan favorite for the Twins.  Mauer played his high school ball at Cretin-Durham Hall, right in the Twins cities.  In 2001, the Twins made him the first overall pick in the draft.  This wasn’t a slam dunk decision.  Many observers felt that USC pitcher Mark Prior was a much better gamble than a high school catcher, regardless of the numbers he put up in high school.  Looking back nine years later, the decision to pick Mauer was clearly the correct decision.

Mauer sets a good example on and off the field.  I am unaware of him ever being in any trouble off the field.  On the field, in his first 5 full seasons, he has won three batting titles, three gold gloves, and an MVP award – and has finished in the top 6 in the MVP voting on two other occasions.

In short, Mauer is bigger than hockey in Minnesota.  Well, maybe not.  Probably bigger than curling, though.  Losing Mauer would have been catastrophic for Twins fans, and they would have stayed away from games in droves.   This is a franchise that was once on the chopping block to be removed from baseball as part of contraction (the Expos-now-Nationals were the other team).

Keeps him away from the Yankees

The big fear, of course, was that the Yankees were going to come in and grab Mauer as a free agent.  This makes a lot of sense, with Yankee catcher Jorge Posada in the twilight of his career.  Brian Cashman would have loved the opportunity to add Mauer’s bat to the lineup.

This would have been a double whammy for the Twins.  Not only would it have been more difficult for the Twins to reach the post-season without Mauer, they’d be forced to play a Mauer-led Yankees team if they made it into the playoffs.

It’s actually not a bad deal, financially

You may look at Mauer’s numbers and say “meh, they’re pretty strong numbers, but he’s not exactly Albert Pujols.”

That’s quite true, but you need to look at the context of the numbers.  Mauer is a catcher – the most difficult position on the field.  It’s very rare to get elite offensive production out of a catcher.  Mauer is a best offensive catcher since Mike Piazza.  I hesitate to even make this comparison – not because of any shortcomings of Mauer, but shortcomings of Piazza.  Piazza was a very good hitter, but it’s very generous to refer to him as a catcher.  It’s an exaggeration to say that I’m a better defensive catcher than Piazza – but not by much.

Mauer is not a catcher in the mold of Piazza, though.  He is actually a good defensive catcher.  Finding a catcher who can combine good offensive and defensive skills is almost impossible –and you need to pay for it.  The drop-off between Mauer and the average MLB catcher is enormous.

Finally, the Twins are paying for some of Mauer’s peak years.  Players typically begin their prime years around age 27 and start to fade in their late 30s.  Mauer will be 28 next year when the contract starts in 2011 and 35 when the contract ends after the 2018 season.  Those are good years to pay for, although it wouldn’t be surprising to see Mauer enter a bit of a decline toward the end of the deal.  An 8 year contract that starts at age 28 is much better than an 8 year deal that starts at age 32.

What are your thoughts on the Mauer deal?  (Let’s try not to go down the “athletes are overpaid” route too much.  Elite performers in many fields are paid insane amounts of money.)

 

Store Update: We’ve been busy stocking the shelves at the Hyrax Publications store recently.  Last week was the release of Sell Yourself Short: A Guide to Short Story Writing (currently on sale for 99 cents!).  Today, we’re happy to announce the release of the audio version of The Cell Window.  The Cell Window is the tale of a professional voyeur.  The audio version is 48 minutes long and features the voice of Kosmo.  Note: Kosmo is not a professional audio book reader, so keep this in mind when setting your expectations.  The price is $3.99.

Want to read The Cell Window, but don’t like audio books?  You can buy the eBook featuring The Cell Window and eleven other stories in The Fiction of Kosmo, Volume 2 ($3.65).

Want it all, but don’t want to pay the a la carte prices?  The Annual Kosmo Pass (regularly $18, currently $9 + a bonus 2 months) will allow you to download all of Kosmo’s content for an entire year.  We plan to add 3-4 eBooks (10,000 – 20,000 words) per year and are planning to populate the audio book section to include nearly all of the fiction from the site. 

Not satisfied with your purchase? Please email Kosmo at Kosmo@ObservingCasually.com and we’ll refund your money!

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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