Mauer Power!

The Minnesota Twins made the first step in securing the team’s long-term success. On Sunday the team signed their All-Star catcher Joe Mauer to a four-year contract worth $33 million which not only locked up the face of their franchise for the long term, but also enabled them to avoid salary arbitration.

This is a huge deal for the Twins and was essential for their success now and into their new ballpark which will open in 2010. In 2006, Mauer became the first catcher in American League history to win the batting title with a .347 average in route to helping the team capture the division on the final day of the regular season. The young catcher also had career highs in numerous categories such as homers (13), RBI (84), on base (.429), and slugging (.507). Mauer was a large part of the team’s turnaround that began last June and saw them comeback from a 12 ½ game deficit to overtake Detroit on their final game.

Mauer’s contract was set up perfectly as the back-loaded deal sees the home town hero earning $3.75 million this season, $6.25 million in 2008, $10.5 million in 2009, and $12.5 million when the new park opens in 2010. The reason this is set up so well is that the low-budget Twins will see their payroll increase in 2010 as they gain the extra revenue when the new park opens in downtown Minneapolis. So having Mauer earn more as the budget increases is exactly how I said they should handle the Johan Santana and Justin Morneau contracts that the team will need to address in the next couple seasons. I already covered the whole Johan Santana issue in an article here so I won’t address it again. But for the Twins to sign their big names, they will need to do similar contracts to this.

The Twins have found themselves in a difficult spot that the franchise has never experienced before. Between now and the end of 2008, the contracts of the 2006 Cy Young, MVP, and batting champion will all be due. No other team in history has seen such decorated players from one season have contracts come due all within such a short time frame, let alone a small market team. Because of this many say the Twins will only be able to keep one of the three players. I disagree and feel they can keep all three (or two of three) if they structure the contracts so the mature when the new stadium revenue is readily available.

As a life-long, die hard Twins fan, I of course want to see the team keep all three of these superstars. And as a baseball fan, you should want to make sure they do too to ensure a competitive league. Because a superstar such as Santana going to the New York Yankees would be a shame for the Twins and to the sport.

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