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Twins move Joe Mauer from catcher to first base following concussion

Nov 11, 2013, 11:40 AM EDT

joe mauer twins AP

For the past two months the Twins have repeatedly insisted that they plan to have Joe Mauer remain at catcher next season despite sitting out the final 40 games following a concussion, but today the team announced that Mauer is moving to first base.

Mauer spent 10 seasons at catcher, hitting .323 with an .873 OPS while making six All-Star teams and winning three batting titles, three Gold Glove awards, five Silver Slugger awards, and one MVP. Among all catchers in baseball history through age 30 he ranks sixth in Wins Above Replacement, behind only Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Joe Torre, and Ted Simmons. Mauer was an amazing all-around catcher.

Back in August when Mauer suffered the concussion I wrote a lengthy article breaking down how a position switch would impact his all-around value. The short version is that big batting averages and on-base percentages would continue to make him a very good-hitting first baseman, but his lack of power would keep him from remaining as elite there as he was at catcher. Instead of being a top-three catcher every season, he projected to be in the 5-10 range among first basemen.

However, at some point this issue became less about value and more about health, and given how he struggled with post-concussion symptoms and given how many catchers spent time on the concussion disabled list this season the move makes sense for both Mauer and the Twins. He needs to be healthy and in the lineup, which is far more likely at first base than catcher.

Minnesota will likely turn to Josmil Pinto as their primary catcher following an impressive September debut, with Ryan Doumit and Chris Herrmann also in the mix to catch.

  1. unclemosesgreen - Nov 11, 2013 at 11:49 AM

    The first shoe dropped when Morneau got shipped to Pittsburgh. This is the right thing to do for Mauer & the Twins. Also, I can see Mauer bulking up now that he doesn’t have to catch – he could surprise with a power surge.

    • dluxxx - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      I was thinking the same thing. If Mauer can pack on a bit more muscle then he’d hopefully be able to lift his power numbers to a more respectable level for 1B. Honestly, with the amount of doubles the guy hits, if he could add a little more power, he’d probably hit more home runs.

    • tc4306 - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:56 PM

      It may not be as much about bulking up as it is about maintaining leg strength.
      All that squatting results in a lot of wear and tear on the legs
      and that too can sap power.

      • unclemosesgreen - Nov 11, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        Agreed – but at the same time, taller catchers can’t bulk up as much as shorter guys. The combination of a different kind strength training plus not having to squat could boost his power numbers in the near future.

    • bennoj - Nov 11, 2013 at 2:51 PM

      Mauer bulks up and has a power surge…. And never gets into the HOF due to steroid suspicions.

      • cur68 - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:57 PM

        Funny. Sad. And true. The trifecta.

  2. phillysports1 - Nov 11, 2013 at 11:55 AM

    Good move by the twins and good for joe .

  3. stex52 - Nov 11, 2013 at 11:59 AM

    I remember your last article. I also agree with the assessment. If long term health is the issue, then at least they have the advantage that he is a top 5-10 1st baseman.

    Astros made a similar decision to move Biggio to 2nd base in the early 90’s and it paid off for years.

  4. chip56 - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:01 PM

    Smart move for the Twins, though Mauer doesn’t have nearly the kind of power that teams expect to get from 1b. That’s not to say they shouldn’t make the move, they’ve got too much $$$ invested in him to let him stay at C where he can’t stay healthy, but this is far from a good situation for a lineup that struggled to hit for power the last couple of years.

    • stex52 - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      Like you say, an easier decision when you have a solid hitter on your payroll for five more years. I haven’t watched him that much. Is there any chance he has the legs left for Right Field? He mush surely still have the arm for it.

      • stex52 - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:16 PM

        “must”

      • chip56 - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM

        No, I don’t think there’s a chance he could play RF. And if they do go ahead and move Doumit to catcher, well then this is going to be a team that doesn’t hit for much power and is awful defensively in a few spots.

        Bottom line is that when you’re locked into a guy the way they’re locked into Mauer you have to play him somewhere and outside of just making him their DH for the next 8 years this is the only place they can put him.

      • stex52 - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:32 PM

        Well, he should have a great glove and arm for a first baseman. That is a gain.

  5. scottychicago - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:02 PM

    smart move.

  6. chacochicken - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:06 PM

    A little tall but a solid athlete. Maybe take some grounders at 2nd base?

  7. happytwinsfan - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:11 PM

    i would have preferred that they have him catch 80 or so games per year with the rest at DH / 1st base for another year or two , and be avialable to max out the lineup by catching every game in the home stretch of a play off race or series (it could happen)

  8. jm91rs - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    Absolute no brainer move. Some people get more concussions than others, so putting him in a position where he will likely never again get hit in the head is the most obvious move.

    • stex52 - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      “No brainer move?” Har Har Har. Oops, that was mildly tasteless.

    • rbj1 - Nov 11, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      Dammit, you stole my line. Shows what happens when you waste time to go do chores and run errands rather than productively sitting around looking at blogs.

  9. crashkobra - Nov 11, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    I agree that it is a far better decision then leaving him at catcher, but I would have put him at 3B where his big arm gets utilized.

    • schm1471 - Nov 11, 2013 at 1:04 PM

      I’ve wondered that too. The reply always is “well Sano is coming soon, he’ll play 3rd.” But Sano is, by most accounts, a total butcher at 3rd. Move him to first.

      • concussedmorneau - Nov 11, 2013 at 9:02 PM

        Sano has a cannon arm. Moving him anywhere but the outfield would be a waste.

  10. moogro - Nov 11, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    MLB ballpark perimeters aren’t safe enough for him to play outfield, and his legs have lost a step. He’s kind of a freak, so expect him to add more power. I guess the only thing wasted at first is his power arm. I was also wondering why the hot corner wasn’t a possible option. Anyone?

  11. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 11, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    He is a super-athletic guy with a great arm. I wonder if there might be some other position that could give him more value. RF? 3B? Lack of experience, sure. But I would think he could make such a transition.

  12. paulkoopman - Nov 11, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    I’ve been a moderate advocate of this for at least 4 years, especially when it appeared Wilson Ramos would be a very capable everyday catcher. When he was younger, and when it was not immediately on the horizon, 3B seemed the logical choice. He wouldn’t need a lot of range, it would utilize his arm on an everyday basis, and the Twins have not had a useful 3B option since Corey Koskie unless you count Cuddyer, but they decided early on that his hearing problem meant he couldn’t play 3B). Obviously it’s easier said than done to just stick someone at 3B. Plouffe was a shortstop in the low minors, and doesn’t appear able to handle 3B at the major league level. But if I recall correctly, Koskie didn’t start out at 3B either, and turned himself into a very decent defensive player. It would take quite a bit of work, and perhaps it would be a better idea to have him worry less about learning a relatively difficult position in the offseason, even one that appears to fit his athletic profile. In any case, the Twins coaching staff surely knows better than I do about Joe’s potential to handle that switch.

  13. djpostl - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    And that contract just got twice as bad for Twins fans. Great average but absolutely no pop from a corner outfielder who will likely be an average defender for $23M per season.

    • djpostl - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      infielder*

  14. ramblingalb - Nov 11, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    Why not 3B? He’s certainly athletic enough, and it’s certainly a tougher spot to fill.

  15. disgracedfury - Nov 12, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    His power is because like David Wright Joe Maurer is now in a new ballpark that you can’t hit homeruns off of.

  16. sfm073 - Nov 13, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Adding power shouldn’t be hard for a great athlete like him. He will no longer have to study tape of opposing batters, he’ll no longer have to sit in the pitchers meetings, he won’t have to show up to spring training early and most importantly he’ll have strength in his legs and hips much longer into the season.

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