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The Twins need to figure out if Joe Mauer is their long-term catcher

Aug 22, 2013, 10:32 AM EDT

joe mauer getty Getty Images

Joe Mauer isn’t going anywhere, but given the concussions he’s suffered behind the plate, the Twins have reached a point where they need to think about whether it’s worth keeping him there. Mike Bernadino of the Pioneer Press reports that Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan are thinking about that possibility:

At some point in the future, Gardenhire said, general manager Terry Ryan could sit down with Mauer, 30, and advise him his catching days are over.

“That could happen,” Gardenhire said. “If this becomes one of those situations where this affects (Mauer) for any length of time, yeah, it could happen. It’s going to have a lot to do with how Joe thinks about it.”

Unlike most catchers, Mauer’s bat would still play as a distinct asset elsewhere on the field. Given that he’s under contract for five more years after this one, you have to wonder if moving him to save his head — and his legs for that matter — isn’t the smartest choice.

  1. kalinedrive - Aug 22, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    Mike Berardino went from the South Florida Sun Sentinel to the St. Paul Pioneer Press? Way to work yourself down the ladder of success, Mike.

    • brewcrewfan54 - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      Its not everyones dreamjob to work in South Florida in the summertime.

      • kalinedrive - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:11 PM

        He’s not doing roofing. South Florida is a fantastic place to live all year. Minneapolis not so much. But at least it’s not Cleveland or Philadelphia, so that’s good.

      • fanofevilempire - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:19 PM

        True and the Sun Sentinel isn’t exactly a dream job either.
        Maybe the guy wanted a change and they have a lot of teams up in the Twin City to cover.
        I read the SS because I have family down there and there
        are some really crazy things happening in Flori-DUH.
        Best time to be down their for me is Columbus day weekend, that’s when they
        have Miami Carnival 2013, the weather is great to party!

      • kalinedrive - Aug 22, 2013 at 3:08 PM

        The average high temperature in Minneapolis is only over 70 from June to September. If you think a high temperature should be under 70 for 75% of the year, you do not understand proper operating temperature for the human body.

        The average high temperature in Ft. Lauderdale is in the 70s from December to March and the 80s the rest of the year. Contrary to some northerner’s beliefs, it is not unbearably hot down here. It is, in fact, beautiful.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Aug 22, 2013 at 5:44 PM

        Indeed, Brew. If it gets a little chilly in Minny, you can add a layer or 2 of clothing. When it gets hot, there is a limit on how many layers you can remove.

    • kopy - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:29 AM


      • kopy - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        In case you don’t click the link, the Pioneer Press is the more popular newspaper.

    • Kevin Gillman - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      You ate paint chips as a kid, didn’t you?

    • kander013 - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      No state income tax-the only benefit of living in South Florida year round. Give me four seasons, clean & safe cities, with plenty to do here in the Twin Cities. The cold weather keeps out the weak ones.

  2. zzalapski - Aug 22, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    I would suggest third base. His arm would still be an asset there, it’s generally harder to find a good-hitting 3B than a good-hitting corner OF, and the Twins haven’t developed a long-term 3B since Corey Koskie.

    Then again, I would’ve also suggested that the Twins cut Butera loose this past winter (or the winter before that, or the winter before that) instead of keeping his Wiffleball bat on the major league roster, so what do I know?

    • dluxxx - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      Well, considering that they got a solid young pitching prospect from the Dodgers (might crack our top 30 prospects) for Butera, and the fact that we have a young man named Miguel Sano who is a top 5 minor league talent (I belive 3rd as per the last rankings) then I’d have to say you know nothing about the Twins.

      Mauer’s bat would play anywhere, but if you put him elsewhere, his value is greatly reduced. He’s worth the contract he has because he’s a catcher. He plays a premium defensive positon (and plays it well) and his bat makes him all the more valuable.

      People have been talking about moving Mauer basically since his 2nd or 3rd year with the Twins, and it hasn’t happened yet. Sure, he plays a few innings at 1B, and has played RF a few times, but his value is at C, and that’s where he should stay as long as possible.

      As far as I know, this is the first time that Mauer has had a concussion, and his legs seem to be doing just fine this year. He’s already played more innings at C than he did all last year, but they aren’t exactly running him out there every day. He’s top 25 in games played at C (and top 20 in innings) but overall they rest him fairly often at either DH or 1B.

      Again, as far as I know, first time he’s had any kind of concussion issues. If it becomes a problem, then I’d look into it further, but at this point, let the man play C as long as he wants.

      • zzalapski - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        My comment was in the context of where the Twins can move him with optimal results. Whether they *should* move him is a different question.

        Sano is indeed a top-notch talent (#9 according to BA, but what’s a few spots). A lot can happen — or not happen — between there and staying in the majors, though. Just ask Brandon Wood.

        If the Twins held onto Butera for three years because they foresaw the happy accident of the Dodgers giving them someone serviceable in return, man, what a waste of clairvoyance.

        I know enough about the Twins to lament how I’m paying for their stadium when their major league operations have been less than inspirational for years, I’ll tell you that much.

      • Bryz - Aug 23, 2013 at 1:03 AM

        Minor quibble: Joe Mauer has played RF exactly once, and it was only in an emergency as Luke Hughes was late arriving to the ballpark after being recalled from Triple-A.

    • Cris E - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:27 PM

      Maybe they can teach Sano to catch while Joe is working on 3b.

  3. natstowngreg - Aug 22, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    OK, hardly the first time someone floated the idea. When you’re 6-foot-5 and a catcher, some fans (and execs) just get the urge to move you to another position–usually, to first base.

    Of course, the Twins have someone at that position. Will Justin Morneau’s departure (subject of more than a little speculation) finally happen? Or, could Mauer move to LF or full-time DH? This could be a very interesting storyline this coming off-season.

    • ezthinking - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:33 AM

      Morneau is a free agent after this season.

      • Cris E - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:29 PM

        Yeah, but he used to catch in the minors. That suggests two questions: maybe he’d go back behind the dish to replace Mauer, and maybe he’s had more concussions than he realizes.

      • dluxxx - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:40 PM

        Chris, with all the concussions that Morneau has had, I think C is the last position he’d be looking to play.

      • Cris E - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:32 PM

        It was a joke. He’s utterly not a catcher anymore.

  4. dondada10 - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:03 AM

    The Twins have experience with a highly compensated player seeing his skills diminish due to concussions: Morneau.

    It’s surreal how a concussion can cause a player to fall off.

    I remember after Piazza got beaned by Clemens he was shaky for a couple of weeks. David Wright caught a Matt Cain fastball in the head and it effected him for a year and a half. Ryan Church got kneed in the head by Dan Uggla and totally lost it. Jason Bay, in the first year of his deal, had his season ended when he slammed head first into a wall in L.A. He’s never been the same.

    Baseball is easily the most difficult sport to play. If you lose any sort of coordination you’re essentially done.

    • ezthinking - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:34 AM

      Brian Roberts lost a season as well.

  5. jsally430 - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    moving a 30 yr old player who has never played at 3rd base doesn’t seem to mesh to me. especially with the estimated time of arrival for sano being with the next season and a half. you basically need a stop gap (ploufee) until he arrives. mauer would be pretty good on right field use that former Gatorade player of the yr arm mr. mauer

    • zzalapski - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      Mauer was a fantastic athlete in high school. Which obviously doesn’t guarantee an adequate transition to third base at age 31 (his baseball age for next season), but at least it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that he can do it. A few weeks in spring training can confirm it either way.

      Besides, with the Twins’ recent record of developing prospects, I would tack on an two year or so to Sano’s ETA.

      • dluxxx - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:42 PM

        You mean like the recent promotion of Hicks and Arcia from AA to the Majors this season?

      • schm1471 - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:03 PM

        As a thinking Twins fan, I love that you’re following this guy around, calling him out on his B.S.

      • zzalapski - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:35 PM

        (Meant to type “another” instead of “an two”, but no matter.)

        The Twins trotted Hicks and Arcia out there because they had no one else decent this year. Their previous track record with homegrown hitters suggests a preference on keeping them in the minors longer than you’d think:

        Corey Koskie – killed the ball in AA at age 24 and in AAA at age 25; finally brought up toward the end of that season
        Danny Valencia – hit decently in AAA at age 24, did so again at age 25 before advancing to the majors after a third of the season
        Michael Cuddyer – killed the ball in AA age 22, in AAA at age 23, and in AAA *again* at age 24 for 50+ games before advancing for good
        Justin Morneau – hit well in AA at age 21, in AA and AAA at age 22, and took out his frustrations on pitchers at staying in AAA for 70+ games at age 23 before the Twins finally ended their fascination with Doug Mientkiewicz

        Mauer advanced so quickly because his skills became that undeniably good that fast. Can Sano do the same? Maybe, but it’d be nice for him to get better at getting on base before he does.

      • dluxxx - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:45 PM

        If the Twins didn’t plan on promoting Hicks this year (and I believe that they should have waited at least for a little while) then they wouldn’t have traded both Span and Revere. They planned on bringing him up at some point. It just happened to be the begining of the season becasue he had a great ST. But that’s besides the point. The Twins have been more willing recently to promote their players that are producing well.

  6. e5again - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:18 AM

    The problem is that he almost certain to move to first (if he is moved). Then you’re paying $23M a year for a fairly light hitting first basemen instead of a catcher. His value goes way down anywhere other than catcher. Really this is true in any corner position.

    Could anyone explain how much his WAR would go down if he were a first baseman v. a catcher?

    • ezthinking - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:35 AM

      WAR doesn’t actually win games.

      • e5again - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:51 AM

        My point is that Mauer’s value is that he is a catcher. He’d be serviceable at any corner position, but he would not be worth anything near to his contract. The uninformed locals here already complain that he’s overpaid, even though he is not as long as he is catching and producing as is.

    • jwbiii - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      2.5 wins per season. If he stays healthier and gets more playing time and isn’t as banged up and is more productive, that would be reduced. That’s just speculation. The approach didn’t work for Mike Piazza.

      While of course WAR doesn’t win games, if you’ve got a better estimate or proxy out back, ezthinking, please share it. Otherwise, we’re all fully aware of your position on this. We also know that dirtyharry doesn’t like the Blue Jays.

  7. thekingdave - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    Mauer’s playing 1st next season. Next question.

  8. RoyHobbs39 - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    No knocks against Mauer,I am a fan of his. But was he ever worth his contract or was he ever projected to be worth his contract? 23 million per year over 8 years seems like a lot even when you take in his 2009 (pre-contract) year. I know he is a hometown guy and a lot of this was to please the fans, but were the Twins really afraid he was going to get more somewhere else down the road? People mention the Pujols, Hamilton, and A-Rod contracts, but rarely do they mention Mauer’s. Am I missing something here? I know he has a decent OBP and WAR for a catcher, but $23M/year? What am I not seeing?

    • e5again - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      Mauer IS worth that as a catcher. He is not worth that at any corner position.

    • kopy - Aug 22, 2013 at 11:59 AM

      Saying he has a decent OBP for a catcher is one hell of an understatement. He has the 6th highest career OBP among active players and is easily one of the top offensive catchers to play the game.

    • e5again - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      The Twins basically had to sign to him. After years of taking heat for not spending money to keep top level players, the hometown guy has an absolutely fantastic year in 2009. 2010 they were heading to Target Field with promises of higher payrolls with higher revenues. If they hadn’t locked him up, the Twins could have been looking like Miami North.

  9. jayinsd1976 - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    Then again his offensive numbers could increase without the day to day grind of lining up behind the plate

    • e5again - Aug 22, 2013 at 12:16 PM

      This is a good point. I just don’t know if he’s going to hit 25+ HRs again.

  10. jsally430 - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    okay guy’s not everyone is going to be trout or harper. for most guys there’s going to be growing pains and by arcia do you mean his 257 10 hrs 32 rbis is bad? for a guy getting his first taste of the majors? or are you talking about hicks great defensive play? say what you want but, I’d think those guys will be solid regulars. they were mid level prospects. unlike sano and Buxton

    • dluxxx - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:27 PM

      I wasn’t commenting on Hicks or Arcia being bad. I was commenting that they were promoted to the big league club with little (Arcia) or no (Hicks) AAA experience. The guy was saying that Sano is still 3 years away from the big league club because the Twins don’t rush prospects. I was pointing out that he’s wrong. Primacy may say that the Twins take their time with players, but the truely gifted ones (Mauer, Morneau, Ortiz, and now Hicks/Arcia) will rise faster than most. Sano will be up in the next year to year and a half. Buxton will be right on his heels.

      • zzalapski - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:42 PM

        Disagreed on Morneau above. Also, the Twins yo-yoed Ortiz to and from AAA over three years, including 130 games at age 23 in his third go-around.

  11. weaselpuppy - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:21 PM

    Have you guys seen Sano play 3B? He’s a DH. RF maybe.

    That said, moving Mauer makes sense.1b. His bat still plays there as a Rod Carew type thing….plus 1b are expensive to get in FA. Doumit is a meh C but he’s an OK bridge to whoever.

    • dluxxx - Aug 22, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      Have you seen Sano play 3B? All signs indicate that he has greatly improved his defensive skills this year, and now has a good chance of sticking at 3B.

      • hansob - Aug 22, 2013 at 4:09 PM

        He’s got a cannon, but yeah… he might be Cabrera-like at third defensively. But if they can find a bopper at 1B, it’s probably worth the sacrifice.

  12. richyballgame - Aug 22, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Cut down his catching time,but see if he’d move to first base on a more regular basis.

  13. spursareold - Aug 22, 2013 at 4:36 PM

    This is the reason I think that people saying Cano could/should get $30M per year are on drugs. His superb bat value is for 2B, and he won’t be there in a few years. Middle infielders always migrate to the corners as they age.

  14. jsally430 - Aug 22, 2013 at 5:18 PM

    if pedro alvarez and Sandoval can pay third base sano can play third. it may work out that he moves to first base. in the long run lije jim thome. the only reason sano is so exciting is he is the first twins prospects that has 30-40hr a yr power in a long time. especially at 3rd. in fact he has the potential to be the best thitdbaseman in terms history. in terms of koskie the twins were so horribly bad when he was coming up. why would you call him up? tori hunter was called up before he was ready and got bounced around from mlb to aaa for a while and look how that turned out. The most frustrating part of the twins oz their refusal to admit they’re in rebuild mode

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