Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Look at the Joe Mauer Contract Situation

There has been a lot of buzz around the Internet recently about the Joe Mauer contract. But what is the difference between this article and every other article on the Joe Mauer situation? Well, this article speculates that the contract negotiation is going to require a little bit of creative thinking by Ron Shapiro (Joe Mauer's agent), which will be explained later on.

The Twins need to sign Mauer to a long-term deal. The Twins would lose a lot of fans if the they were to let him walk after next year.

Joe Mauer is 26 years old. That means that this contract would be going through his prime. His numbers have already been outstanding, and with his age it doesn't look like his numbers will drop off anytime soon.

Because of this, the Twins will be looking at a hefty contract, but just how hefty?

Well let's start by looking at the Twins current payroll:

2009: $65,299,266

With all of their arbitration eligible players, the Twins will probably be on the hook for about $72 million. According to many news reports, the Twins want to raise their payroll in 2010 to a maximum of $95-100 million. Joe Mauer's contract is paying $12.5 million at the moment. If the Twins spend about $12 million on free agents this year, the payroll will reach $84 million. That should leave an additional $11 million to $16 million for Mauer's contract. Given that many sources believe that Joe Mauer could command a free agent contract on the open market of $25 million per year, the financial ability to sign Mauer to a long-term contract is there. The question is how much will be available to surround him with the talent to compete for a World Series appearance.

I think the first year of his new contract will land $26 million, and I will explain why later on. The Twins seem to have the payroll space to be able to do that this year. They would even have $3-4 million more to spend during the season on new acquisitions.

Now that the facts show there is enough money to spend on Mauer, let's look at just how much it might take.

Mauer has 3 batting titles at age 26. All three were done at catcher. Mauer is the first player to ever have 3 batting titles at catcher. Remember, he is only 26! This year he also hit 28 home runs, and drove in 96 RBIs. To top it off? He led in BA, OBP, and slugging percentage this year!

Defensively, Mauer is just as good. He just won his second consecutive Gold Glove Award this year. His range at catcher is also considered among the best in the game. Finally, when he is behind the plate, it seems like the younger pitchers feel more confident when pitching to him than any other catcher on the staff.

Joe Mauer's hometown is St. Paul, Minnesota. This means that he might be willing to accept a slight "hometown discount". This does not mean though that he would probably take anything under $20 million a year. He is probably going to want $22-23 million per year from the Twins. That is about what Mark Teixeira got per year in his new contract, and he is 3 years older. That amount would still be less than what he could get on the open market. If he stays in Minnesota though, he probably wouldn't want to take all of the Twins payroll. This being because he would probably want the Twins to be able to sign the players necessary to be able to make a World Series run.

Mauer is probably going to also want the most amount of years possible. My guess is the max the Twins would give is 6 years considering he is a catcher. The reason being is you never know if a catcher will not be able to play that position anymore because of injuries that arise from the position. If Mauer is for some reason only DHing at age 30, he would be worth considerably less per year than if he was catching.

My guess on what it will take for the Twins to resign Mauer? 6 years $132 million. Another guess is this new contract will void his current one. With the Twins voiding the current contract, it means Mauer would make that much more money. It also means it's one less year Mauer is committed to. He would only be 32 at the end of the contract, so that means he could test the free agent market at that point if he so chooses.

I also think that the Twins will try and front-load the deal. They will do this because they would not only have extra money to spend each year moving forward, but then they don't have to worry as much if Mauer for some reason can't play catcher 5 years from now as they wouldn't be committed to as much money later in his contract.

Finally, this contract may have an unusual clause designed to ensure that the hometown discount is used to surround Joe Mauer with the players needed to compete for a title. It wouldn't be surprising to see a six-year, $132 million contract where the Twins have to spend at least $100 million on payroll each year. If the Twins do not spend the required $100 million a year, then Mauer would have the right to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. I don't even know if this type of a contract would be allowed under the Collective Bargaining Agreement or MLB rules. But either way this is a very interesting idea that should be thought about.

Here is how I think the money would be spread out:

2010: $26 million
2011: $24 million
2012: $22 million
2013: $22 million
2014: $20 million
2015: $18 million

Now the final question is: When will Mauer resign with the Twins?

My guess: Sometime between Christmas and New Years. He is probably going to wait and see if the Twins are willing to stay competitive or not. Mauer will probably not know the answer to that until after the Winter Meetings, which is in December. If the contract is signed during that frame, it would make the holiday season that much more memorable.

What do you think it will take to resign Mauer?