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  • Finding Mauer's Replacement: Part 1

    I'm not a doctor. I didn't even stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Nonetheless, it's been clear to me for some time that Joe Mauer was destined for a permanent move away from catcher after concussion issues cost him a quarter of his 2013 season. There was simply no way that continuing to expose the organization's most valuable asset to the heightened risk of head trauma behind the plate was going to be acceptable, no matter how well his offseason recovery went.

    On Monday, the Twins made official what has been apparent for months: Mauer is now a first baseman.

    Already here at Twins Daily, Parker has shared manager Ron Gardenhire's thoughts on the announcement and Cody has examined some of the ripple effects that will stem from Mauer's relocation. Both articles are well worth checking out.

    Here I'm going to break down the challenge the Twins now face, one that at this time last year they likely felt was nowhere near. For the first time in 12 seasons, they need to find an answer at catcher.

    When the Twins signed Mauer to a $184 million contract in 2010, the hope was they would be covered behind the plate for the next eight years. Of course, that was never a particularly realistic hope, considering the history of full-time catchers aging into their 30s. Looking back, when you account for the numerous lower-body ailments faced by Mauer over the course of a career that started with a severe knee injury, it may be that he was lucky to last as long as he did.

    Now, the organization sets upon the task of finding his successor -- an unwelcome distraction with the rotation in need of so much attention. Josmil Pinto is the obvious choice following a hugely impressive audition in September, but I wouldn't assume that he'll enter spring training as a lock -- or even a favorite -- to be the starter.

    During his interview for the Offseason Handbook a few weeks back, Terry Ryan was guarded in his comments about Pinto. When Parker started a question about the rookie backstop with "Pinto had a great first month of his big-league career," Ryan interjected: "Not great." The two eventually settled on "solid."

    There wasn't much not to like about Pinto's offensive performance: In 83 plate appearances, he hit .342/.398/.566 while showing decent plate discipline, driving the ball to all fields and repeatedly coming up with huge hits.

    Plainly, Ryan isn't convinced the 24-year-old is fully developed in the many vital aspects of catching: calling games, framing pitches, controlling the run game and the like. It's understandable given that Pinto essentially skipped Triple-A on his way to the big leagues. The GM showed little long-term concern, stating that Pinto's flaws are "gonna be workable" and adding that he is "very coachable."

    In the meantime, the Twins will surely seek a contingency plan for the possibility Pinto demonstrates in March he still needs work. No strong candidates exist within the system, as Ryan Doumit is no one's idea of a regular catcher, Chris Herrmann is a replacement level talent and 2013 third-round pick Stuart Turner -- who may be on the fast track as a college draftee with an advanced skill set -- is still at least a couple years away.

    There is little doubt that the Twins will venture into the free agent market to find an established player who can serve as at least a short-term solution. Already the club has been connected to multiple names. Later this week, I'll take a look at some of the likely candidates, each of whom could fit in a different way.
    This article was originally published in blog: Finding Mauer's Replacement: Part 1 started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 36 Comments
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      Reports are: "Joe is a quiet leader".
      The first part is incredibly accurate. Doesn't that buy some slack on the credibility of the second part?
    1. LaBombo's Avatar
      LaBombo -
      Quote Originally Posted by JB_Iowa View Post
      Are we thinking that Joe Mauer isn't willing to share info? It's not like Mauer is traded or dead. He'll still be on the team -- and I'd expect that he'd be willing to share his vast store of knowledge with younger catchers particularly since the choice to move to 1B was ultimately his own.

      I always liked AJ -- even when he was with the Whitey's -- mostly cuz he was the antithesis of boring.
      That, and Steinbach is coming back, right? Joe has caught most of the likely 2014 opening day pitchers, and I'm guessing Terry learned a thing or two in 1300+ games behind the plate

      As for the second part, entertainment value was also the reason to love The Great and Profaneful Oz during his tenure with the WS. But not too keen on bringing him in either.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by LaBombo View Post
      the forthcoming Fryer Apocalypse.
      We're on the same page, then.
    1. Pius Jefferson's Avatar
      Pius Jefferson -
      I wouldn't blame Mauer if he didn't want to be the 'catching guru' when he's no longer a catcher. That's why bringing in a solid veteran to mentor Herman and Pinto and let Mauer focus on playing 1st Base.
    1. Anorthagen's Avatar
      Anorthagen -
      How come the picture you guys have/use of Pinto is of him with his mask turned the wrong way?
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Anorthagen View Post
      How come the picture you guys have/use of Pinto is of him with his mask turned the wrong way?
      Attachment 6025
      Yeah... That's a good question.

      Do you have an answer for that Nick?

      Here are 10... Go ahead and pick one.

      10. The mask was put on by Sam Deduno and all his control issues.
      9. There is a 3 year old child in front of him and its a game of peek-a-boo
      8. The mask comes with an ice pack and he has a toothache.
      7. Pinto has pledged to wear his mask this way in protest of the like button disappearing from Twins Daily.
      6. Mask and headgear was broken because of rough handling by UPS.
      5. He was a victim of Incognito hazing.
      4. It's AshburyJohns Fault.
      3. Fans down the third base line were throwing beer bottles.
      2. Nick Nelson asked for the pose as part of his new modern photo Art exhibition titled "Over Under Sideways Down".
      1. The index finger on his right hand is his primary for nose picking. He just needs a place to flick.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Consider me among the group that wants nothing to do with AJ now or ever.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Here are 10... Go ahead and pick one.
      Number 4. Always number 4.
    1. Paul Pleiss's Avatar
      Paul Pleiss -
      I like the Twins going out to sign a veteran catcher on a 1-year deal. AJ Pierzynski makes sense to me because he also adds some attitude and outspoken veteran leadership that I beliee this team lacks. I keep seeing people talking about not spending money on a catcher and instead putting that money towards starting pitching. I don't think it works that way. Saving money by not signing a catcher to a 1-year deal will not equate to dollars spent signing quality starting pitching. TR can go out and get both, and I for one, hope he does.
    1. USAFChief's Avatar
      USAFChief -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Number 4. Always number 4.
      Concur.

      Id also like to point out that "AsburyJohn's" initials are "AJ." Coincidence? You be the judge.
    1. Riverbrian's Avatar
      Riverbrian -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      Attachment 6025
      Yeah... That's a good question.

      Do you have an answer for that Nick?

      Here are 10... Go ahead and pick one.

      10. The mask was put on by Sam Deduno and all his control issues.
      9. There is a 3 year old child in front of him and its a game of peek-a-boo
      8. The mask comes with an ice pack and he has a toothache.
      7. Pinto has pledged to wear his mask this way in protest of the like button disappearing from Twins Daily.
      6. Mask and headgear was broken because of rough handling by UPS.
      5. He was a victim of Incognito hazing.
      4. It's AshburyJohns Fault.
      3. Fans down the third base line were throwing beer bottles.
      2. Nick Nelson asked for the pose as part of his new modern photo Art exhibition titled "Over Under Sideways Down".
      1. The index finger on his right hand is his primary for nose picking. He just needs a place to flick.
      I want to replace #3... Throwing beer bottles was meh... I thought of something better.

      3. Right Eye Wink... Is the indicator.

      Its not as good as #4 but an improvement over the original #3.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Riverbrian View Post
      4. It's AshburyJohns Fault.
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      Consider me among the group that wants nothing to do with AJ now or ever.
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Number 4. Always number 4.
      Quote Originally Posted by USAFChief View Post
      Concur.
      The people have spoken. I'd like to apologize for my role in the healthcare.gov website, while I am at it.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      The people have spoken. I'd like to apologize for my role in the healthcare.gov website, while I am at it.
      I KNEW it was you!
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by ashburyjohn View Post
      The people have spoken. I'd like to apologize for my role in the healthcare.gov website, while I am at it.
      I heard they just released version 2 of healthcare.gov on 14 floppy disks. So congratulations on your achievement.
    1. Danchat's Avatar
      Danchat -
      Just wondering, but is it a foregone conclusion that Ryan Doumit is outta here? It didn't seem like it was that long ago when he signed the extension. But signing a catcher doesn't really make sense with Doumit, Pinto, and Herrmann on the roster. I'd rather not see him here, because he'd probably take up the DH spot, which Willingham should play...
    1. BigTrane's Avatar
      BigTrane -
      AJ is a plus Crash Davis, face it! Piss & vinegar. Rose goes on the front.

      Of course Mauer is going to be dipping in behind the dish as much as possible because he'll miss it, so input from him won't be an issue. AJ bats L, compliments Pinto, and can't stop talking. Question is culture.

      The Molina conjecture is a good one- w/no bat and age an issue, he should stand to be a cheap signing for a short-term deal. No risk. Twins do not have the most diverse clubhouse in MLB, and all coaching spots seem to be filled by native, monolingual English-speakers. Yet scouting has traditionally been focused on the Caribbean!

      Get him in the org on the cusp of retirement, then keep him on as a coach somehow/ somewhere. This is how you develop depth & maturity at a position.
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