Jump to content

Providing independent coverage of the Minnesota Twins.
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

The Forums

Zulgad: Is MLB really making return about dollars and cents?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 08:45 AM
https://www.skornort...lars-and-cents/   The owners have made their proposal to the players. The players association will now have t...
Full topic ›

Virtual Twins Baseball Megathread

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 04:03 PM
Moving forward this will house every game-thread in the comments below until real baseball hopefully comes back. I should have done this...
Full topic ›

2020 MINOR LEAGUE SEASON

Twins Minor League Talk Yesterday, 02:06 PM
Baseball America takes a look at what is happening in the minors, a season that would now have been a couple of weeks old.   https:/...
Full topic ›

Recent Proposal

Minnesota Twins Talk Yesterday, 10:29 AM
https://theathletic....=freedailyemail   The players have rejected the owners last proposal, the players have proposed a longer seas...
Full topic ›

Too Far From Town: Elizabethton Twins

Twins Minor League Talk 28 May 2020
This seems to be a free article in the Baseball Prospectus series on minor league teams in danger of elimination.   https://www.base...
Full topic ›

Recent Blogs


Awkward Decisions

Joe Mauer is the best player in modern (post-2000) Twins history. Byron Buxton could be in line to succeed him as face of the franchise.

These are very important players, not to mention very likable players. So it creates an awkward situation when their own best interests conflict with those of the Twins.

But the team must come before the player. And that's why it should not be a given that Mauer returns in 2019, nor that Buxton returns in September.
Image courtesy of Dan Hamilton, USA Today
Let's start with Joe Mauer.

Mauer has been climbing toward the top of franchise record books this season. Most recently, he became the third Twin ever to reach 1,000 runs scored, days after passing Rod Carew for second on the all-time hits list.

As the 35-year-old checks off these estimable accomplishments, it's easy to get caught up in the nostalgia of his former greatness. But the truth is that Mauer hasn't been a great player in five years. The closest he came was last year – a genuinely solid season – but in 2018 he has returned to the same mediocre rate of production that's been customary since his move to first base.

Watching him play, one can't be blamed for exaggerating Mauer's impact. He has legitimately been one of the best clutch performers in baseball this year. Almost every hit he collects these days seems to knock out another milestone. Plus, there's the exemplary plate approach, and the sterling defense.

But from an objective standpoint, Mauer just hasn't been much of a difference-maker. At all. Both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference have him pegged at less than one win above replacement level. His .729 OPS ranks 111th in the majors. His raw strength, never a true asset, is clearly diminishing – Mauer has gone long stretches of this season with absolutely no power output. His middling walk rate doesn't make up for the lack of bat.

Other than wishful thinking, I'm not sure what'd make anyone expect this to change for the better in 2019. Realistically it seems far more likely he'll lose a little more bat speed, and a little more reaction time. Mauer is not a net negative to the team right now but he isn't far off, and there will be ample opportunity to find a significant upgrade during the offseason.

Yet, so many people are deferring to Mauer completely on this decision. I've seen it from fans and media. I've seen it (more understandably) from coaches and teammates. If Joe wants to come back, and will accept a reasonable contract, he's back – so goes the prevailing wisdom. Conspicuously, it's not a stance that has been openly taken by Derek Falvey or Thad Levine.

Personally, if he'll come back on a low-cost one-year deal, and is open to a more limited role, I'm not opposed to Mauer coming back. But his well-earned status shouldn't dictate the club's path. Why do so many otherwise logical folks feel it should?

Now, as for Byron Buxton.

I laid out my feelings regarding the Buxton situation two weeks ago when he came off the disabled list at Triple A. But he became a topic of discussion again on Wednesday night when Paul Molitor stated that a decision hasn't yet been made regarding his fate for September.

My thought when he was activated was that Buxton should be able to earn his way back up. Has he? Well, he's been hitting for a ton of power at Rochester, with nine extra-base hits and a .659 in 10 games. It's absolutely been his best burst of offense all year.

But he also has drawn one walk in 46 plate appearances, with 10 strikeouts. And when talking to reporters, Molitor notably pointed out that Buxton's been "pulling the ball at a high rate." That hasn't always been a great indicator for him in the past.

Buck's results are obviously back where the Twins want them; one wonders about the process.

Again, it can't be overstated how valuable that extra year of service time will be in 2022, when Buxton is 28 (for relevant perspective, Aaron Hicks is 28 now). Whether the front office is running out the string on his service clock, or engaging in extension negotiations, or discussing trades with another team – from any perspective, it's just really key.

So I can see why this is a much trickier equation than some make it out to be. Especially when you consider the inherent questions around Buxton's health (which would seemingly benefit from an extra month's rest tacked onto his offseason), and the lack of available playing time in the Twins outfield.

When asked, Falvey said they're not factoring Buxton's team control into their thinking (what else are ya gonna say), but the truth is that even negating that, there's still a case for holding off – albeit a slightly weaker one if his average is still close to .400 in a week.

I'm happy not to be the one making the call.

The fan in me wants to see Buxton in September and Mauer in 2019. But the more analytical side, thinking strategically and strictly for the good of the team, feels more conflicted – especially with regard to Mauer.

When Falvey and Levine were brought aboard, the hope among so many of us was that they'd be guided less by sentimentality, and more by data, logic, shrewd reason.

Because of this, I'm a little surprised by the unpopularity of either scenario – opting to part ways with Mauer this offseason, or leave Buxton out this September – even among people I almost always find myself in agreement with.

... Awkward.

  • nicksaviking, Oldgoat_MN, big dog and 5 others like this

  • Share:
  • submit to reddit
Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

Subscribe to Twins Daily Email

265 Comments

 

Buxton - bring him up. He has shown that he can dominate AAA; both in the past and with this latest run. Find out if it works at the MLB level; at least in September.

Mauer- help him decide to retire. The 1B/DH role is too valuable to fill with Joe. They need to find out what they have with Austin, Rooker, Vargas, Raley, ... not to mention the Sano/Kepler option in that role.

 

The 1B/DH role is too valuable so they should fill it with Vargas and Raley... hmmm can't say I understand that in the slightest. 

    • SF Twins Fan likes this

 

On Mauer: As you said, it seems pretty clear that Joe's calling the shots, so we'll see.

 

I think Joe's presence on the roster would take the Twins out of the market for any of the 1B/DH types that are going to be available. It's just really difficult to roster two of those type guys.

 

That's not a bad thing. Logan Morrison is likely the best option in that market. These are the other prominent names available.

 

Matt Adams

Lucas Duda

Nelson Cruz

Evan Gattis

Matt Holliday

 

None of those guys is perfect. Duda and Holliday seem washed up. Gattis is interesting since he also can catch (poorly) but he's logged 34 MLB innings at 1B. Matt Adams is a part-time player at this point. Nelson Cruz is interesting but he's also 38, can only DH, and is looking for a long-term deal.

 

It's not an inspiring market and Joe Mauer would seem to fit nicely in it and be a top option for the Twins, given his history with the team. You can get more pop from Adams and Gattis but the defense and OBP is significantly less.

 

That and the Twins have openings at 1B and DH and any move of Sano to one of those spots would just leave the Twins with holes at 2B and 3B. Austin plays some OF and will likely get some time at 1B/DH but the Twins are going to need someone even when Rooker comes up. Mauer is as good as anyone on that free agent market, especially for the Twins needs.

    • glunn, Oldgoat_MN, LA VIkes Fan and 2 others like this
Photo
nicksaviking
Aug 30 2018 08:26 AM

Unless the front office is convinced that both Mauer and Molitor (or another manager, please) would put Joe on the Bench if better options emerge, you can't bring Mauer back if you're planning on competing next year.

 

It's well within reason that Sano, or Austin, or Rooker or someone else will be both a better overall player AND need to play 1B next year. If the front office knows going into this offseason that Mauer's stature is going to prevent them from replacing him, they just can't re-sign him; it would be completely irresponsible.

 

If all parties will agree to the distinct possibility of a greatly diminished role, great, re-sign him. But let La Velle know too so the news is broken to the fans long before that decision has to be made.

    • glunn and Riverbrian like this

 

So what are the alternatives at first if the front office cuts ties with Mauer?

 

Not good. Lucas Duda, Matt Adams, Logan Morrison, Adrian Gonzalez, Victor Martinez, Justin Smoak etc. Some of those may be looking for multiple year deals (Smoak) and that would seem to be an issue for a Twins organization with Rooker etc. on the way up.

    • SF Twins Fan likes this

Nelson Cruz is interesting but he's also 38, can only DH, and is looking for a long-term deal.


Can Cruz really expect a long term deal? I have to admit, I am intrigued by him...

 

What are the options for Buxton to keep seeing pitching if isn't brought up in September?  

 

I do wonder if they could keep at Fort Meyers for 13 days and then bring him to the TC. It might be too nakedly brazen but it likely is the best course for the Twins and Lord Byron.

Photo
nicksaviking
Aug 30 2018 08:31 AM

 

Not good. Lucas Duda, Matt Adams, Logan Morrison, Adrian Gonzalez, Victor Martinez, Justin Smoak etc. Some of those may be looking for multiple year deals (Smoak) and that would seem to be an issue for a Twins organization with Rooker etc. on the way up.

 

But there wouldn't be organizational chaos if the front office were to bench, release or trade one of them should the need arise.

    • Riverbrian and SF Twins Fan like this

 

If you wish to watch Mauer's career a little longer, see him move closer to Puckett on the all time Twins hit list, pretend that 90 games of his defense at 1b are actually valuable, and wax nostalgic on that 2009 season, then by all means, sign Mauer.

 

If you want to see the Twins compete at the highest levels, then it's time to move on and find a real answer who can be an asset in 2019 and beyond.

 

"He doesn't really hurt us" and "he takes good ABs" are the best anyone's come up with so far in this thread. There's your answer.

 

There aren't great internal options and there aren't better options in free agency are also pretty good answers.

 

The Twins don't have a first baseman that Mauer is blocking. Austin plays some OF, 1B and DH and isn't an everyday 1B in all likelihood. Sano will be at 3B next year even if the Twins get Escobar or someone like him back because they have a hole a 2B. You're likely looking at needing at least one 1B/DH type. I don't see a better option. If Joe wants to come back, he has value to this team. I wouldn't go more than 1 year unless that second year is a team or mutual option though.

    • Ryan Atkins, Oldgoat_MN, SwainZag and 1 other like this

 

But there wouldn't be organizational chaos if the front office were to bench, release or trade one of them should the need arise.

 

No not at all. But I'm not sure that any of those guys are an insane upgrade over Mauer. Smoak and Matt Adams are the best of the 1B-playing bunch to me and they're nice players but I'm not sure they move the needle that much. Especially if Mauer is considerably cheaper as an older vet not looking to cash in.

Photo
yarnivek1972
Aug 30 2018 08:33 AM

That is a reasonable alternative to Mauer for sure, but it doesn't really change the composition or usage of our bench either. You still need a starting DH and a utility infielder, same as the Mauer plan.



I think the days of a regular, set DH are all but over. This year, there will probably be only 3 or 4 guys that will have a qualifying number of at bats as a DH. Increasingly common is using the DH to rest players from the field. That’s only going to increase as pitching staffs increase. I don’t think teams will even consider DH playing time going forward. They will let it take care of itself.
    • nicksaviking and Riverbrian like this

If all parties will agree to the distinct possibility of a greatly diminished role, great, re-sign him.


See, I think Mauer in a greatly reduced role is actually *worse* than re-signing him to start. He is pretty useless on a modern MLB bench. Backup 1B/DH? He can pinch hit, probably only for a few guys, and most of the time you will need someone else to take over on defense.

Whereas, if he starts, depending on your roster configuration, he doesn't necessarily affect the size or composition of your bench.
    • nicksaviking likes this

 

Can Cruz really expect a long term deal? I have to admit, I am intrigued by him...

 

His agent has been saying he wants at least two years.

 

He's an intriguing guy with an almost unparalleled career track - his best run of seasons has been ages 34-37. He'd certainly be a nice bat in the lineup.

 

Issues to me are that he's an everyday DH so there goes spelling Sano/Rosario or working in at bats for four OFers. He also has had steroid issues which leave him open to a big suspension and perhaps cloud his late career numbers. He also seems like he'll get at least $10 million per year so the cost is higher.

 

I wouldn't be averse but there's a lot to unpack with him.

I think the days of a regular, set DH are all but over. This year, there will probably be only 3 or 4 guys that will have a qualifying number of at bats as a DH. Increasingly common is using the DH to rest players from the field. That’s only going to increase as pitching staffs increase. I don’t think teams will even consider DH playing time going forward. They will let it take care of itself.


Maybe not a full-time, everyday DH, but I think this is an exaggeration. I suspect most teams have a Mauer/Morrison type plan at DH, unless perhaps you are stacked with great position players (which the Twins most certainly are not).

 

Unless the front office is convinced that both Mauer and Molitor (or another manager, please) would put Joe on the Bench if better options emerge, you can't bring Mauer back if you're planning on competing next year.

 

It's well within reason that Sano, or Austin, or Rooker or someone else will be both a better overall player AND need to play 1B next year. If the front office knows going into this offseason that Mauer's stature is going to prevent them from replacing him, they just can't re-sign him; it would be completely irresponsible.

 

If all parties will agree to the distinct possibility of a greatly diminished role, great, re-sign him. But let La Velle know too so the news is broken to the fans long before that decision has to be made.

 

I don't see the diminished role.

 

Brent Rooker isn't going to be ready until June 1 at the earliest. He's dipped a bit in AA this year. Nothing awful, he just needs a bit more seasoning as expected. 

 

Sano is 3B next year with a sprinkling of 1B and DH. I don't get the people eager to get him across the diamond. He'll end up there eventually but he's an adequate 3B and the Twins have no internal candidates at 3B. They're already replacing 2B so why have to replace 3B too when you have an acceptable guy there already?

 

Austin will get some time at 1B/DH. But I see him also getting some time as the 5th OF (behind Buxton, Rosario, Kepler, Cave) and he's an ideal platoon with Mauer anyway.

 

Mauer isn't going to play 140 games but there's no reason he can't play a more front-loaded 125. There's not a lot better in free agency and Mauer means something to the team. Bring him back.

    • SwainZag, Blackjack, LA VIkes Fan and 4 others like this

 

I’ve heard lots of people say bring Mauer back in a “more limited role”. He’s going to play fewer than 90 games at first this year and he’s likely going to start fewer than 115 games total.

So, my awkward questions for anyone who cares to answer are

1) How much more limited would you expect his role to be in 2019 (and beyond)?

2) How much do you think that amount of playing time coupled with his subpar offensive production is worth?

3) Perhaps most importantly (and an issue no one advocating for his return has bothered to address), how do you fit essentially a half time player who plays only first base onto a roster that has 3 position players per game that don’t start?

Someone said in one of the Forsythe threads that a championship team doesn’t have Logan Forsythe on it. IMO, a championship team doesn’t have 36 year old Joe Mauer on it.

 

The first Twins championship team had 38-year-old Don Baylor on it for 20 games, with an OPS+ of 89, and everyone thought it was a great decision (except maybe whomever didn't make the playoff roster as a result).I'd rather see Veteran Quiet Leader Joe Mauer all year.

    • ThejacKmp and Doctor Wu like this

 

Nick, he is our starting center fielder and a platinum glove winner. He is playing in AAA and doing well. He is good to go.  Stop talking like he is a Faberge Egg.

Very good points overall, but even his own family is worried about his all out play style and seeming propensity for getting hurt. They don't want to see him not play his fullest, but at the same time they are worried about Byron the man and his long term health (just for reference I know his wife's grandmother and she has stated that both her and Byron's wife are always worried about him and his play style).

His agent has been saying he wants at least two years.

He's an intriguing guy with an almost unparalleled career track - his best run of seasons has been ages 34-37. He'd certainly be a nice bat in the lineup.

Issues to me are that he's an everyday DH so there goes spelling Sano/Rosario or working in at bats for four OFers. He also has had steroid issues which leave him open to a big suspension and perhaps cloud his late career numbers. He also seems like he'll get at least $10 million per year so the cost is higher.

I wouldn't be averse but there's a lot to unpack with him.


Cruz feels like a great low-risk add. The years and money almost certainly won't be enough to preclude cutting him or parking him on the DL if he struggles or gets hurt, but if he succeeds, he could be an ultra-reliable bat that could strengthen our everyday lineup or get flipped for prospects.

The suspension risk doesn't worry me at all. He forfeits his salary on a suspension, and as a DH he is relatively easier to replace.

It is a little tricky to fit him in as a DH only. But if we are planning on Sano and Austin on the team anyway, maybe not so tough. Or adding a 2B with some versatility.

 

Maybe not a full-time, everyday DH, but I think this is an exaggeration. I suspect most teams have a Mauer/Morrison type plan at DH, unless perhaps you are stacked with great position players (which the Twins most certainly are not).

 

Yeah, this is interesting with Cruz. He's a 150 game+ DH and an amazing bat but he does preclude you from the rest day but still get to hit plan.

 

It'd be interesting to hear MLB player and staff talk about how that affects a team. Does it make you play guys in the field more and not get those days off? Does it contribute to continuity to have that same bat every day? Interesting topic with so few true DH's left.

Photo
nicksaviking
Aug 30 2018 08:58 AM

 

No not at all. But I'm not sure that any of those guys are an insane upgrade over Mauer. Smoak and Matt Adams are the best of the 1B-playing bunch to me and they're nice players but I'm not sure they move the needle that much. Especially if Mauer is considerably cheaper as an older vet not looking to cash in.

 

It's not about the upgrade, it's about the team not being able to fix a problem if Mauer is on the team. You can't fix 1B if he's re-signed because they'll have to play him there no matter what his production is. 

 

And free agents shouldn't have anything to do with it because there's still the strong possibility that internal options like Sano, Austin or Rooker will need the spot. But if they want a free agent, yes, sign Matt Adams over Mauer, he's a better hitter, can play OF and can be dealt or benched without anyone wringing their hands about it.

    • USAFChief and Riverbrian like this

 

 

Someone said in one of the Forsythe threads that a championship team doesn’t have Logan Forsythe on it. IMO, a championship team doesn’t have 36 year old Joe Mauer on it.

That was me. And while that is a literal reiteration of what I said, there was a broader point to that. While you can't have the best player in the league at every position, you still try to put the best player you can at every position. You make the upgrades you can and not fill your holes with adequacy. If Mauer, in the role he has, is the best option for the team, you sign him. If he's not, you let him go.

    • USAFChief, diehardtwinsfan and LA VIkes Fan like this
Photo
yarnivek1972
Aug 30 2018 09:06 AM

The first Twins championship team had 38-year-old Don Baylor on it for 20 games, with an OPS+ of 89, and everyone thought it was a great decision (except maybe whomever didn't make the playoff roster as a result). I'd rather see Veteran Quiet Leader Joe Mauer all year.

Of course, the Twins had an unlimited roster in September of 1987, so carrying Baylor didn’t hinder anything. That won’t be the case in 2019 from late March through August.

btw, other than catchers Tom Nieto and Mark Salas, the only position players for the Twins in 1987 that didn’t make the postseason roster were Chris Pittaro and, wait for it, Billy Beane. Flip a coin as to which one might have made the playoff roster instead of Baylor I suppose. Unless the Twins went with 10 pitchers instead. That would likely have been Mike Smithson or possibly Allan Anderson.
    • USAFChief and ThejacKmp like this
Photo
nicksaviking
Aug 30 2018 09:07 AM

 

I don't see the diminished role.

 

Brent Rooker isn't going to be ready until June 1 at the earliest. He's dipped a bit in AA this year. Nothing awful, he just needs a bit more seasoning as expected. 

 

Sano is 3B next year with a sprinkling of 1B and DH. I don't get the people eager to get him across the diamond. He'll end up there eventually but he's an adequate 3B and the Twins have no internal candidates at 3B. They're already replacing 2B so why have to replace 3B too when you have an acceptable guy there already?

 

Austin will get some time at 1B/DH. But I see him also getting some time as the 5th OF (behind Buxton, Rosario, Kepler, Cave) and he's an ideal platoon with Mauer anyway.

 

Mauer isn't going to play 140 games but there's no reason he can't play a more front-loaded 125. There's not a lot better in free agency and Mauer means something to the team. Bring him back.

 

This is all speculation though, what if paragraphs 1,2 and 4 aren't true? You're stuck with a subpar 1B you can't move out of the lineup.

 

What if Rooker is ready June 1? You think Joe is just going to go to the bench? I don't, I think Joe keeps his job and Rooker is more likely to bide his time in Rochester whether he's crushing or not all while TD burns down in frustration.

 

What if Sano can't play 3B, maybe because of futility, maybe just because of physical limitations? Then what, clog up the DH all year?

 

Mauer's played in 75% of the team's games this year. Why would we believe that he'd platoon with Austin or have reduced playing time?

    • Riverbrian likes this

Yeah, this is interesting with Cruz. He's a 150 game+ DH and an amazing bat but he does preclude you from the rest day but still get to hit plan.

It'd be interesting to hear MLB player and staff talk about how that affects a team. Does it make you play guys in the field more and not get those days off? Does it contribute to continuity to have that same bat every day? Interesting topic with so few true DH's left.


I don't know if Cruz would completely preclude it. Aside from Mauer, the Twins have only had a handful of guys use the DH spot in that fashion, mostly since we punted on the season anyway. A benefit of a mostly young lineup. Cruz will need an occasional day off anyway.

 

There is so little risk in keeping Buxton down from a FO stand point. But lose the extra year when the late bloomer reaches his potential and you'll be remembered as a the fool who traded 20 games of crap Buxton for a year of MVP.

Byron has no one to blame but his own dismal results for much of 3 wasted seasons for this situation. If he stayed healthy and hit, service time wouldn't be a concern. If he stays healthy and hits, he'll get a fat extension buying out arbitration.

Byron Buxton hasn't done enough to suggest that we owe him anything. I think playing him over Cave or even Grossman at this point would be unfair. What free agent would want to play for a team who's willing to replace you with a guy you're badly outperforming?

Cave deserves his shot, Grossman has earned his spot for this last month.

 

I think it's a major stretch to ever think he's going to be an mvp at this rate.But i would guess there are still some that hold out hope that he's going to magically become Mike trout next season.Might take tinkerbell and pixie dust to make it happen though.  

    • Blackjack likes this

 

This is all speculation though, what if paragraphs 1,2 and 4 aren't true? You're stuck with a subpar 1B you can't move out of the lineup.

 

What if Rooker is ready June 1? You think Joe is just going to go to the bench? I don't, I think Joe keeps his job and Rooker is more likely to bide his time in Rochester whether he's crushing or not all while TD burns down in frustration.

 

What if Sano can't play 3B, maybe because of futility, maybe just because of physical limitations? Then what, clog up the DH all year?

 

Mauer's played in 75% of the team's games this year. Why would we believe that he'd platoon with Austin or have reduced playing time?

 

Brett Rooker has a .812 OPS at AA for the year. That ain't bad but it doesn't scream "promote me directly to the majors". He's going to start next year in AAA and he will have to adjust again. I think June 1st is a good target date. When he is ready, there's room for him in the majors. He can play corner OF, 1B, and DH. No reason Joe blocks him. And let's flip it. You don't resign Joe and Rooker isn't ready until September 1st. Are you happy having Kennys Vargas at 1B? Adrianza playing every day at 3B while Sano plays 1B? The Twins need a 1B/DH type to being the year and Joe makes as much sense as anyone.

 

Number 2 is not speculation. Sano has shown nothing to say he's not going to be at 3B next year. If anything it's his bat sending him to the minors that is the problem (BTW, that would make Joe even more necessary).

 

Assuming Joe plays 20 more games this year he's going to end up with around 120 games. His three year average will be 130ish (and that includes games he pinch hits so it's really like 120). I think 120 is a fair guess for Joe. Gets you 42 games for Rooker. Couple that with the inevitable injuries and rest days and you have more than enough time for Rooker or whomever.

 

This thing isn't about internal candidates. It's about if you think there's a better outside option. If the Twins sign Donaldson and Cruz, yeah, Joe doesn't fit. But I don't know that that would be a wise use of funds and really doubt the Twins are going to commit to several long-term deals to guys north of 35. One short term deal to Joe makes way more sense.

    • SwainZag and SF Twins Fan like this

Similar Articles


by Cody Christie , 25 May 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 18 May 2020
Photo


by Seth Stohs , 12 May 2020
Photo


by Seth Stohs , 05 May 2020
Photo


by Cody Christie , 28 Apr 2020
Photo