UPDATE: I updated the title of this blog post, thanks mostly in part to the true definition of the word "infamy" being brought to my attention. I now know just how fitting the word truly was when, FDR used it to describe the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I realize that even to fans of the Twins' divisional opponents, the signing of Mauer will not be viewed as "evil reputation brought about by something grossly criminal, shocking, or brutal" or "an extreme and publicly known criminal or evil act." However, it is certainly more fitting for them than it is for Twins fans...
Sunday, March 21st, 2010, a day that will live in infamy in the minds of Minnesota Twins fans, the day the Minnesota Twins signed Joe Mauer to what is essentially a lifetime contract. I realize that comparing the signing to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 through the utilization of the statement made by Franklin Delano Roosevelt may be a bit inappropriate. However, I found justification in the fact this day will live in infamy for reasons much different than those of the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II in the minds of Twins fans.
Joseph Patrick Mauer will, barring some sort of unforeseen last-minute contract hang-up, be a Minnesota Twin for life. Mauer and the Twins reached an agreement this evening on an 8 year contract worth $184MM, which also includes a full no-trade clause. The contract details have not yet officially been released, and will more than likely be revealed following the press conference set for tomorrow evening at 6:00 p.m. Initial reports are that the deal will pay Mauer $23MM over 8 years, obviously including no deferred payments.
This deal will go into affect at the beginning of the 2011 season, as this season Mauer is entering the final year of a 4-year, $33MM contract where he is set to make $12.5MM over the course of 2010. With Mauer turning 27 later this year, this new contract will keep him a Minnesota Twin until the age of 35, covering what most baseball experts would deem as his “prime years.” More than just that, this ensures that the face of the Minnesota Twins franchise will remain in Minnesota more than likely for his entire career.
Signing Mauer to a deal of this magnitude both in terms of number of years and compensation marks an entrance into new territory by the Minnesota Twins. This has been regarded for months as a “deal that must get done,” with many writers stating it as “not if, but when” the deal would be done. This is less about keeping the “good ol’ Minnesota boy in town,” and more about signing one of the games elite players to a lifetime deal, as Buster Olney alludes to:
“Mauer is generally regarded as the American League's best player and may be baseball's most coveted player, given his unique set of skills. Mauer, who turns 27 next month, already has won three batting titles and two Gold Glove Awards, and last year, he began to hit for power, posting a 1.031 OPS.
The Twins' signing of Mauer to a long-term deal is going to be viewed as a strong development for Major League Baseball, at a time when there are growing concerns about the disparity between teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, and teams that generate less revenue like the Rays, Athletics and Twins.”
As Olney alludes to in the second portion of his article, the signing of Mauer long-term is a very good thing for Major League Baseball. The gap between teams like the Yankees and Red Sox and teams like the Minnesota Twins is hopefully closing. Any baseball fan knows that over the past decade or two, the competitive balance in baseball has favored large market franchises with payrolls sometimes 4-5 times the size of their small market competitors.
This contract is the first tangible benefit that Target Field has provided for the Minnesota Twins franchise. They would have no more had the financial flexibility to pay Mauer this type of money while still playing in the Metrodome, as I have the financial flexibility to purchase a private aircraft! The Twins have always held true to a business model in which their payroll for any given season is around 52% of their forecasted revenue. The Twins can now expect revenues upward of $200MM, and as a result can afford to not only have payrolls of $100MM or more, but also to retain elite players past their arbitration years.
Most importantly, this shows commitment on the part of the Minnesota Twins to winning. Signing Mauer to a contract of this length gives them the best chance at winning, not only now, but long-term as well. This essentially ensures that Justin Morneau will remain in Minnesota for the remainder of his career, and also will entice future free agents to sign with the Twins. This signing, partnered with the continued success of minor league player development, should ensure that the Twins remain extremely competitive, and more than likely contenders for years to come.
One thing that is for sure, Bill Smith has proved his doubters wrong. He took over as general manager at a very difficult time when two of the faces of this franchise, Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, had their minds set on leaving. Hunter, for some reason wanted out, and decided to sign with the Angels during the 2008 offseason, and Johan Santana was set on playing for a team in a larger market, forcing Smith’s hand in trading him to the New York Mets. Couple that with Smith’s trade sending Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett to Tampa Bay in exchange for Delmon Young, which up until this point has been deemed a bust, left most Twins fans calling for Smith’s head.
This Mauer signing has put the icing on the cake to one of the best offseasons of any MLB team, and probably one of the best Twins offseasons ever. With the free agent signings of Clay Condrey, Jim Thome, and Orlando Hudson, the trade for JJ Hardy, and extensions for Nick Blackburn, Denard Span, and now Joe Mauer, Bill Smith has now shown that he isn’t quite as bad at his job as people had originally thought. I officially take back everything bad that I have said about Bill Smith, and fully believe that he is approaching the GM status that Terry Ryan possessed prior to resigning from that position in 2007.
One thing is for sure, the Minnesota Twins are no longer the “little engine that could,” they have firmly cemented themselves as a “locomotive” that is ready to compete with the likes of the Yankees and the Red Sox. Gone are the days of contentment with just “being there,” and first round playoff exits. Joe Mauer and the Minnesota Twins are here to stay!
Check back within the next few days for a new post including pictures, regarding my recent visit to Target Field!