Back when the Twins were winning AL Central titles, the reporting of pitchers and catchers was an event. They had Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano and Brad Radke reporting as pitchers and Joe Mauer checking in as a catcher. The pitching has completely fallen apart in the last 6 years, and Mauer has moved to first base. Nobody gets excited over Kurt Suzuki.
This year, there is a bit more buzz, as the team signed Jason Castro as the very first move of a new front office regime, and Castro is now in Fort Myers, with a little bit of pressure. Castro isn’t a force on offense, and as good as he is, he isn’t one of the best catchers of all time. Even with all these players reporting, the chatter remains about who they don’t have.
The Twins still don’t have much pitching. There are a few potential up and coming prospects, but nobody that fans HAVE to see. There weren’t any big trades this offseason to bring in a fresh crop of talent. People are still always going to talk about Mauer. There are three lines of communication about Mauer. People wish that Mauer was still catching, People that wish Mauer was catching and living up to whatever they believe $23m a year should be worth, or people that will spend the entire season defending Mauer and his contract.
Since everyone will be talking about Mauer, and for some reason, I still haven’t, I’ll offer up my thoughts on the guy. First, despite the complaints about him he was still one of the most reliable bats in the lineup. He was behind only Robbie Grossman in OBP, a statistic I assume won’t repeat in 2017 (meaning he very well could lead the team), and his transition to 1b has made him, if not a great defensive first baseman, then at least the best defender the Twins have at the position. Regardless of whether or not he is living up to a 23 million dollar deal, he definitely deserves a spot on the field Unequivicably, he does.
The Twins gave Mauer his deal as they were opening a new stadium, and he was one of the best players in the game, and had been so on a cheap. Much of his contract is payment for services rendered, and not his future value. MLB is filled with contracts like this, thanks to the arbitration process, rendering players underpaid through what are often their most productive seasons. And if you believe that Mauer’s contract is handicapping the team’s chances at competition, I can assure you that payroll is not the problem. They are paying $74m to the Twins not named Joe Mauer, which is more than 4 other teams in baseball, and they were, and still are, looking to add players. They were said to have offered Mike Napoli ore money than he accepted with the Texas Rangers. For the convenience of math, let’s say the Twins offered him $10m, compared to the 8.5 he took to sign with the Rangers. The Twins would have had the 19th highest payroll with Mauer, and 25 without. Frankly, there is nowhere else the Twins would have viably used that money. They’ve tried signing pitchers, and it has not worked.
Twins’ pitchers and catchers have reported, and that is wonderful. Despite any changes coming to the organization, however, Joe Mauer will continue to be a topic of conversation, even before he arrives in Fort Myers.