Sunday, March 21, 2010

Minnesota Twins Resign Hometown Hero Joe Mauer

According to, the Minnesota Twins have resigned Joe Mauer to a eight-year $184 million contract which will run through 2018, an average of $23 million a year. This contract includes a full no-trade clause. The reason for the no-trade clause is probably because Mauer doesn't want trade ideas to swirl around later in his career. This way Mauer can be assured he will be in Minnesota for at least another eight years. The contract will last until he is 34, so this contract will go right through his prime years.

This contract was probably made to be compared to Mark Teixeira's eight-year, $180 million contract signed last year with the New York Yankees. This is the fourth highest contract in MLB history, behind Derek Jeter ($189 million with the New York Yankees) and Alex Rodriguez ($275 million with the Yankees and $252 million with the Texas Rangers).

This is a very expensive contract for the Minnesota Twins to give Joe Mauer as this takes up over 20% of the Twins' payroll. The Yankees have a lot more money to spend than the Twins, so seeing the Twins spend this kind of money is a little surprising. The reason the Twins did it though is because they almost had to. If the Twins did not resign Joe Mauer, there would have been many very unhappy taxpayers considering they just spent a lot of money on Target Field. Fans also wanted Mauer to stay because he was born in Minnesota, making him an idol to baseball fans (including kids) throughout Minnesota. The front office of the Twins needed to keep the fans happy, and they did.

There are also a lot of new season ticket holders and the Twins would like to keep them while upgrading the smaller season ticket packages such as the 20-game and 40-game programs. Losing Mauer would likely have had a very negative effect on retention and upgrading.

Joe Mauer had a line of .365/.444/.587 with 28 home runs and 96 RBIs in the 2009 season. Not only did he lead the American League in BA, OBP, and Slugging, but he also racked up his 3rd batting title in 4 years and his 1st MVP award. Defensively he was spectacular, earning himself his 2nd gold glove in as many years. At just 26 years old, Mauer can still get better.

Joe Mauer is by far the best catcher in baseball right now, and is starting to turn into one of the best of all-time. He is a team leader and for many, the face of the Minnesota Twins franchise.

This contract may look large, but the Twins cannot pass up the opportunity to keep one of the best catchers of all-time.

A Look at Spring Training - Problems Being Solved

Spring Training is getting closer and closer to completion, but there are some issues requiring Gardenhire's attention. Let's take a look at a couple of the current questions remaining. The answers could be vital in how the season plays out.

Will Francisco Liriano become the closer in place of Joe Nathan since Joe Nathan cannot pitch this year?

While many sportswriters have said that Liriano is an option for the closer role, and even though this was being talked about in the clubhouse, Liriano will not be the closer this upcoming year. According to, Ron Gardenhire said that Liriano is going to be a starter, not a closer. This is an issue that this was lingering in the clubhouse throughout Spring Training, and it needed to be solved as it was probably a big distraction. Will that mean that he will get the fifth spot in the rotation? He has been lights out so far in Spring Training. Liriano was amazing in Winter Ball also this year, so he has been consistently good. His slider is making hitters look foolish. It seems as unhittable as it was in 2006. All doors are open for Liriano if he continues to pitch at his 2006 form. As it looks right now, I think he will win the 5th spot in the rotation over Brian Duensing and Glen Perkins.

Will the Twins need another relief pitcher since Nathan cannot pitch this year?

The Twins are probably going to be looking for another pitcher to solidify the bullpen. Reports recently say that the Twins have been looking at Heath Bell for the job. The Twins would have to trade the San Diego Padres for him, but he would be worth it. Bell has been a very good pitcher over the years. If he comes to the Twins, he would probably be placed in the closer role. How much will Bell cost the Twins though in trade? Kevin Towers (Former General Manager of the Padres), said that if he was still the General Manager of the Padres, he would want Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere, or Angel Morales from the Twins in exchange for Heath Bell. All three of the players are outfield prospects for the Twins, and very highly touted prospects at that. I rated Aaron Hicks 1st on my Twins top prospect list, Ben Revere 4th, and Angel Morales 8th. For now I think the Twins would rather not trade Hicks or Revere, but Morales might be expendable. If the Padres offer Bell for Morales, I would pull the trigger. The Twins have a surplus of outfield prospects while they don't have nearly as many relief pitching prospects. Heath Bell would really contribute to the Twins bullpen, so hopefully the Twins will work something out.

There is less than two weeks left in Spring Training, but there are still more problems to be solved. Some problems include who will win the starting third base job and who will make the finals cuts for the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. Those and more will be topics that I will cover before the end of Spring Training. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Look at Spring Training - Pitchers to the Rescue

The Twins have completed about 2 weeks of Spring Training. In the two weeks, some players have shined, while others have struggled. There are some players that are either coming back from serious injury, or trying to return to form from a previous injury. Let's take a look at a couple players.

Francisco Liriano

Liriano has been outstanding so far in his 4 innings of work. He pitched two in two games so far and it looks like no one can touch his pitches. Reports are saying that his slider has just been unhittable. Does that remind you of the Liriano from 2006? If he wins the 5th spot in the rotation and pitches like he did in 2006, that would be a huge luxury for the Twins to have. There has been some talk about putting Liriano in the closer role since Joe Nathan became injured. No one knows right now if Joe Nathan will be able to return at all this year. Hopefully he will be ok, but the Twins need to start looking at other options because the chances that Nathan is going to play this year are slim to none. There are a few options for the closer role internally, but Liriano is not the best option. While a closer needs to be able to get a big strikeout and Liriano's slider meets the requirement, he would be much more useful as a starting pitcher. As an effective starter, he would be much more useful for the Twins than putting him at closer. It is a lot easier to find a closer than a dominant pitcher (if he comes back like he was in 2006). I think Gardenhire will probably feel the same way.

Pat Neshek

Neshek was dominant in 2007, when he just missed making the All-Star team. In 2008 though, he experienced a problem with his elbow. This was more than just a problem though, this was a serious injury. The injury required Tommy John surgery. He missed over a year, but it looks like he could be back for the start of the season. Will he be as dominant as he was prior to the injury though? Well, so far in Spring Training, he has been lights out. Pitching 3 innings so far in as many games, he has yet to allow a run. His pitches look very promising going into the regular season. If he can pitch like he is right now, he could be a huge help in the bullpen. Is he the possible answer to the closer position. Just a couple years ago, there was a little talk about Neshek possibly getting a chance at closing once Nathan was gone. Neshek definitely has the pitches to close out games, though he is a valuable as a set-up man and the Twins need an effective eighth inning pitcher. He was extremely good at holding ballgames in the 8th inning for Nathan in the 9th. I think that if he comes back strong this year, it will be in the set-up role, not closer.

If these two players can contribute this season at a high level, thisMinnesota Twins team could get one step closer to the end result almost 20 years ago.

Look back often for more about Spring Training throughout the remainder of it. Spring Training has a few more weeks left, and then it is off to the Regular Season! The Twins have a very good team this year, and could very easily make it deep into October.