Minnesota Twins: What’s up with Joe Mauer?
When the Twins signed Joe Mauer to a massive $184 million contract in 2011, I immediately thought they had overpaid. Their front office was in a tough spot, essentially forced to pay top dollar to keep the hometown favorite wearing Twins colors for the rest of his career. At the time of the signing, Mauer provided premium offense at the catcher position.
Fast forward four years, and Mauer is primarily a first baseman and designated hitter. He did not catch a single game in 2014. I had an inclination this would happen, given Mauer’s injury history. He has also played only one full season since signing the contract.
When Mauer was signed to the contract, he was coming off a stretch in which he won three batting titles in four seasons and an MVP in 2009. He was the best offensive catcher in the game, and deserved the contract he got. Now, as a first baseman and DH, he is well below the league’s best, but is not paid as such. He hit only four home runs and slugged only .361. Mauer was never a power hitter, but as he shifts to a corner infield position, his lack of run production is magnified.
The Twins have publicly stated that Mauer will bat no lower than third in their order. Mauer seems to be healthy this spring, and removing him from behind the plate should help him stay that way. If he remains fully healthy, Mauer should see his batting average rise back into the mid-.300’s. He will not hit with the power expected of a three-hole hitter, especially in cavernous Target Field. The Twins will not be very good once again in 2015, after a last place finish in 2014, but Mauer can provide a bit of positivity in Paul Molitor’s first season if he can prove that his contract is not a total bust.