|Mauer Contract Weighing Heavily on Twins Minds|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on March 20, 2010
Think again if you want to call the Twins cheap. They added Orlando Hudson and Jim Thome in free agency, while acquiring J.J. Hardy via trade. The Twins retained Carl Pavano at $7 million for 2010 and have a $94 million payroll for this season, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts.
The hometown boy is a free agent at season's end, and he's saying all the right things about wanting to stay in Minnesota. Numbers are being thrown around that Mauer will sign a $200 million contract.
If he signs one that big, it may not be with the Twins. Despite their recent desire to spend money, the Twins have been reluctant to increase payroll to maintain talent. Johan Santana, one of the game's premier pitchers, left because the Twins couldn't retain him once he hit free agency.
Sure, Mauer is the premier catcher in baseball and a local kid, but $200 million over about 10 years is a lot of money for a team like this. That would likely be one-fifth or more of the team's payroll. Remember: they haven't signed another impact bat or top-of-the-rotation pitcher to help get them deep into the postseason.
The Twins' new stadium, Target Field, should increase their revenue. But that doesn't necessarily mean their payroll will increase. And if that doesn't happen, the Twins might not be able to keep Mauer.
There is always the chance that Mauer doesn't sign his huge contract. The Yankees have $13 million committed to Jorge Posada next season and the guess here is that they'll be more interested in Carl Crawford, a strong defensive and top-of-the-order presence in the outfield, this upcoming offseason.
The Red Sox are more likely to retain Victor Martinez, another quality catcher who will be a free agent at season's end. They also have Jason Varitek to consider. Beyond the two big teams in the American League East, the two Los Angeles teams are very unlikely to spend money because of their financial situations. The Cubs have Geovany Soto and are limited financially.
What other teams have money to spend on a big-ticket item like Mauer? The Mets couldn't pony up the money for John Lackey, despite a tremendous need for starting pitching this offseason that they never addressed.In this economy, there just isn't going to be a market for Mauer, no tremendous bidding war that will escalate into Mark Teixeira territory. That means it's more likely that Mauer returns to the Twins and maintain his status as the hometown hero.