The Twins are in an interesting place with Mauer. At age 29, he remains one of the best catchers in the majors, and although injuries the past 2-1/2 years have taken their toll on him, he is obviously someone the Twins can rebuild around. And with first baseman Justin Morneau’s impending free agency this offseason, a move of Mauer to first base full-time would make sense if Morneau leaves. In addition to filling the hole left by Morneau, it would save a lot of wear-and-tear on Mauer’s body.
Mauer’s current contract locks him up through the 2018 season, giving Minnesota the security of having his services for another six seasons beyond this year. For that very reason, it also makes him a fairly tradable asset as potential trade partners can be assured of his long-term presence in their clubhouse. However, his annual salary of $23 million through the end of the deal, as reported by baseball-reference.com, could be a stumbling block in any trade scenario. Plus, Mauer has a full no-trade clause and would have to agree to waive it for any deal to go through.
Suitors are bound to come calling, led by the Boston Red Sox, despite reports today that they will not put a claim in on Mauer. With the salary flexibility they created in their deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers earlier this week, the BoSox could easily absorb Mauer’s deal and make him a cornerstone piece in what could be a quick turnaround plan back to respectability. Reuniting Mauer with former teammate David Ortiz, along with fellow Red Sox stars Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, would go a long way towards making the Sox serious players in the AL East again.
Another potential suitor: The Chicago Cubs. Despite president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s well-documented plan to tear down the organization and rebuild through the draft, Mauer would be a great building block for the Cubs. Mauer’s experience would provide much-needed leadership in a clubhouse featuring young and upcoming stars like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, and his ability to handle the pitching staff would be invaluable. However, with the Cubs still years away from contention, it’s unlikely that Mauer would accept a trade to the North Side.
So, does the Twins move indicate Mauer will soon be changing his address and cashing checks from another organization? Not likely. This is merely an attempt by the Twins to gauge interest from other teams and the value Mauer could potentially bring in trade. With the Twins in a hearty chase for the worst record in the AL, general manager Terry Ryan is simply doing his due diligence in finding out how his assets are valued throughout the marketplace.
For the five-time All-Star and 2009 AL most valuable player, that value’s got to be pretty high.