Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sources: Twins extend Mauer for 10 years

Update: Bob Nightengale of the USA Today reports that Mauer laughed when asked if he had agreed to a 10-year extension, so ultimately there still isn't a deal in place. The two sides continue to talk, though, and a deal still appears inevitable.

After a long but very enjoyable weekend, I woke up Monday morning battling the Flu. What started out as a pretty terrible Monday instantly became the best Monday in a long, long time. Sources informed WCCO's Mark Rosen that the Twins and Joe Mauer have reached a preliminary agreement on a ten-year extension. The total value of the extension is unknown at this point, although it likely will fall between $180MM and $200MM. The deal probably won't be official for at least a week, as the two sides undoubtedly still need to iron out all the incentives and other contract formalities, but as I told a friend of mine: It could be worth $500MM and I wouldn't care. Re-signing Joe Mauer was the most important task for this front office not only for this season, but for the next decade.

It's worth noting that some credible sources said WCCO's report was inaccurate, most notably Buster Olney of ESPN and Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune. I trust Rosen, because he quite frankly has sources closer to Mauer and has known the family for nearly a decade. Of course, it really doesn't matter, because it seems like a virtual certainty that Joe Mauer will be extended in the next few weeks if this report is incorrect.

If the deal is indeed ten years, it is somewhat risky from the Twins perspective. Some members of the local media will say it's risky because of Mauer's injury history, but the fact is Mauer has played in 130 games or more in 4 of the last 5 seasons. Despite his reputation for being slightly injury prone, facts are facts and Mauer has been among the most durable and dependable catchers in baseball over the last five years. It's risky because catchers can begin declining at any point, but in all honesty Mauer seems like a fairly safe bet to be well worth the money over ten years. He plays the worst offensive position in the league, and he was the best offensive player in the American League last year. That's sensational, and if the Twins can get him for 33% less than what Albert Pujols is expected to sign for annually, that's a bargain for the Twins no matter how long the contract is.

Mauer is the face of this franchise, and if he stays healthy and productive he could go down as the greatest Twin ever. The Twins have had a lot of great players, but Mauer's ceiling at this point is so high that he could surpass all the greats of the past by the time he's done. If I had to guess, I would say by the time Mauer retires, he will go down as the greatest all around catcher in baseball history. Hard to believe that nine years ago people were screaming because the Twins selected local boy Joe Mauer over USC superstar Mark Prior. Terry Ryan, the state of Minnesota and Twins territory thanks you.

Bill Smith, if you get this done and finalized, I'll thank you as well, but not a moment sooner.