Target Field will end indoor baseball in Minneapolis, and it may too end the use of the moniker “cheap” in relation to the Minnesota Twins. After trading for J.J. Hardy, retaining Carl Pavano and signing stars Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson, the Twins put the finishing touch on their busy off-season Sunday night, locking up their hometown hero through 2018.
Joe Mauer is a rare breed. At the age of 26, he’s won three American League batting titles, three more than any American League catcher in baseball history. His .365 batting average last season is the highest by a catcher in baseball history, and he also became the first catcher in history to lead the American League in batting average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
His eye-popping numbers in 2009, which came even after he missed the first month of the season, earned him a third Silver Slugger award, and helped him join teammate Justin Morneau as an MVP award winner.
Mauer’s busy off-season has now collided with the Twins’ after months of negotiations, and the result is an 8-year, $184 million contract. For the next nine seasons, and through the age of 35, Mauer will be with his hometown team in Minneapolis.
The months filled with false rumors and false hope are gone. No longer will Mauer need to talk about where he might be after the 2010 season on each road trip. Instead he can answer questions about staying with his hometown team and his attempts at taking the team he grew up rooting for to a World Series.
In the early years of the long contract, if Mauer continues to progress and produce, fans will praise what is now the fourth largest contract in baseball history. In the later years, if Mauer regresses or struggles at times in his mid-thirties, there may be some grumbling.
Yes, the long term deal carries its risks. Paying a 35 year old catcher $23 million might not work out. Then again, who says Mauer couldn’t change positions over the course of nine years if necessary?
The Minnesota Twins had no option but to fork over the money, and in the end, it’s a deal that seems fair for both sides involved. Had the Twins lost Joe Mauer after just one more season, fans would be wondering for the next decade, what might have been. There will be no need for those thoughts however, fans will be able to find out the fate of the contract with a front row seat.