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If Joe Mauer was a Free Agent...


Seth Stohs
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Travis Aune tweeted this morning a question that I found very interesting.

 

If Joe Mauer was a free agent, what kind of contract do you think he would get. In real life, he has 4 years, $92 million remaining on his contract. We can all agree that had he been allowed to become a free agent a year later, he likely would have made more in terms of years and dollars.

 

However, what if the 31-year-old was a free agent today. What kind of contract would he be able to get. He's had an incredible career with all the batting titles, silver sluggers, gold gloves and an MVP. But, his 2014 season obviously wasn't great and he had moved to first base. 

 

Victor Martinez, at 36 was able to get four years and $68 million from the Tigers to play DH.

 

So, what do you think? What would Mauer and his agent (Mr. Shapiro) be able to command in free agency this year?

 

My initial guess was that he could get three years and $45 million. What do you think?

 

 

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Well...

 

That is revisionist history:

 

a. He is not a free agent

b. The Twins absolutely had to sign him, otherwise there would had been a revolution (maybe with Prince) in the Twin Cities

c. I have always thought that his contract was fair at the time, compared to then comparables.

d. People want to have their pie and eat it too.  And they want a scapegoat for suckage.  And Mauer should be the last one.

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Boy, this is a hard question to answer. I don't think I can answer it from my perspective too well.

 

I can, however try to put myself in Mauer's shoes and say what I would do if I was Joe Mauer. This obviously will not be accurate as I am not Joe Mauer, but here it goes.

 

First, I sit down with my wife and ask her if she is down with me playing in the MLB. I would assume she would say yes, but then I would tell her - "In order to do that, I am going to really have to buckle down this offseason, workout, and be a game video introvert this offseason. You will have to pick up the slack with our children as I need to focus and get on my horse and right my ship, and fortunately or unfortunately, I think it is time to leave the Twins and sign a make good one year contract with a decent team that has a ballpark that favors my hitting style. I love the Twins, but maybe I have stagnated, change can be a good thing. I know I can reclaim my former glory."

 

If my wife is on board - I would then spend the rest of the offseason watching video of the shifts teams put on me when I hit, and I would do my very best to find an alternate approach that could open things up for my hitting style. Hell, I am a smart guy, adjustments need to be made.

 

I would also contact my agent Mr. Shapiro and inform him to market me as a first baseman and corner outfielder. I want the flexibility to make a fit for myself on a decent team in a hitter's ballpark. I would then tell Shapiro to focus on the AL East (Minus Tampa Bay). The Yanks might not have a spot for me, but I could probably slot into the O's, Bluejays and RedSox lineup well if I can play a corner OF position and fill in at 1B. My preference would be Fenway, but beggars cannot be choosers.

 

I imagine, I could get an 8-10M contract with incentives included. My thought is I will rake in 2015 and even though at an awkward age (32), caught between youth and being a crusty veteran, I can score my self a 4 year, 75-80M deal in the 2015 offseason, but I would be certain to put myself in a favorable hitting environment to showcase my skills and not take the money and run.

Edited by Bark's Lounge
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Well...

 

That is revisionist history:

 

a. He is not a free agent

b. The Twins absolutely had to sign him, otherwise there would had been a revolution (maybe with Prince) in the Twin Cities

c. I have always thought that his contract was fair at the time, compared to then comparables.

d. People want to have their pie and eat it too.  And they want a scapegoat for suckage.  And Mauer should be the last one.

 

What's revisionist about what I wrote? It's a theoretical question. It's not meant to say that it was a bad deal. I would never say that it was excessive. As I said, I think he would have got more had he been a free agent. The question simply is IF he was a free agent, what would he get this offseason. It's a fair question. No one is pretending it's real. Just a What If.

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He'd definitely get more than Billy Butler.

 

Adam LaRoche generates more pop, but even a down year for Mauer in OBP is at LaRoche's career best. LaRoche is projected for a deal around 3/$36M.

 

Despite a down 2014 and injury concerns, Mauer's upside would trump every bat on the market. I think Mauer could easily get a fourth year due to his age, so I'll say 4/$56M.

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Forgive me, but part of what made Joe Mauer worth the money the Twins paid was that he was a Minnesota boy, and that he was, at the time, a catcher. 

 

Suddenly, with the position change, and especially an off year, he has become a $10-15 million a year player at best and would be hard pressed to get a 4-5 year deal. If he was with the Twins, he would've gotten a QO for sure.

 

But past batting titles aside, his worth to most teams are a catcher. If he was playing third, or if we truly knew how strong his legs and arms would be in the outfield, he might garner a bit more.

 

So, yes, we can now look back and say the Twins either got a long-term bargain, or Joe set himself for a lifetime contract that paid more than if he had entered free agency and signed a five year deal, say, and now was looking at Big Contract #2.

 

The bigger question that eats my soul is what we need to pay Joe for years 36-40 and is he worth it. Will he give us a hometown discount of a measly $50 million to stay on and chase 3000 hits and be an enduring Twin, or will the front office happily cut him loose and then we can argue (albeit a few more years of his stats to hum about) if his contract was a blessing or truly a curse for this team. Is he truly a $250 million dollar man for this team?

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Forgive me, but part of what made Joe Mauer worth the money the Twins paid was that he was a Minnesota boy, and that he was, at the time, a catcher. 

 

Suddenly, with the position change, and especially an off year, he has become a $10-15 million a year player at best and would be hard pressed to get a 4-5 year deal. If he was with the Twins, he would've gotten a QO for sure.

 

They are two different kinds of dollars amount here: 

 

a. B-P's VORP, fangraphs "value" and their derivatives, which calculate someones' performance, add a position-based replacement "value" and give out a dollar amount.  And the idea here is grading on the curve.  Cs, SSs, etc are rarely among the top bats out there.

b. Market-driven contract actual dollar amounts.

 

a and b are not related, other than they are represented with the same measurement unit.  Think 20 pounds (sterling) and 20 pounds (of steel).   (and, yes, the British coin used to represent the value of weight of one pound of sterling silver, thus the name)

 

 

You are talking about a., while b. is the reality.  Contracts are market-driven.  And one cannot calculate the market, because it runs on supply and demand and (in baseball) on crazies who want to outspend each other.   Last year, the Mariners spent $240M for Cano's ages 32-41.  The Yankees spent $153M for Elsbury's ages 31-38, the Rangers $130M for Choo's ages 32-39. That establishes the market (and I expect that this season, it will get about 10-20% higher.  The Twins spent $184M for Mauer's ages 28-35.  Which of those 4 contracts will be a better value?   Time will tell, but methinks Mauer's.  Thus, the Twins got Mauer bellow market. 

Edited by Thrylos
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I realize that the point of this article is not to question the value of JM's current contract.  However, it does indirectly highlight the fact that virtually all large, long-term (5+ years) contracts in baseball end up being bad deals. This is, for better or worse, the nature of the "market".  The irony, of course, is that it is the often same fans who criticize the Twins for not opening the checkbook and going after guys like Scherzer and Lester that also harp constantly about what a huge mistake it was to give JM his big contract.  The message seems to be that the Twins need to spend the big money, BUT they better not make any mistakes in the process. Meanwhile, the reality is that anytime you sign any player to this type on contract, there is a 75% chance that you will regret it later. 

 

Oh, and to take a shot at answering the actual question posed, my guess is that teams would offer  3/$45M and Shapiro would be pushing for 5/$75M, so he would end with 4 years around $60M.

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Yes - I think he'd be getting a contract near $12-15MM annually.

 

I think the other piece is that the Twins would absolutely, no question, extend a Qualifying Offer to Mauer. If you were Joe Mauer, and you were looking for a one year make good deal, would you take the 15.3MM from the Twins, or would you still want to test the waters?

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#1 - I would think with his concussion issues that no team would want to go beyond two or three years, just in case.

 

#2 - I think $12-15 million would be about right per year.

 

#3 - I wonder how hesitant he would be to sign with the hometown team after the past few years and some of the ridiculous comments made about him.

 

#4 - With all that said, if you think about what he does for the franchise -- face of the franchise, people buying his jersey, never getting into any trouble or controversy, getting people to the ballpark to see him, etc. then his contract is still about right.

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It's maybe a bit tough to figure out how the numbers work out in today's dollars, but the hypothetical Joe Mauer being a Free Agent this off season reminds me (a little) of Wade Boggs going to the Yankees. His last season in Boston, Boggs "only" hit .259, only had one outlier year ('87) in which he hit 24 homers, and was considered to be washed up by various people in his own organization (The Red Sox did the same thing to Roger Clemens a few years later). 

 

Boggs was a few years older than Mauer, but was likewise a multiple time batting champ that offered less power than typical from a position that generally supplies it.

 

Like Boggs, Mauer would just need one team to want him badly enough. Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Brewers, Pirates, Marlins - there are lots of teams that would gladly pay and/or overpay for 2 or 3 years of Joe Mauer.

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You are talking about a., while b. is the reality.  Contracts are market-driven.  And one cannot calculate the market, because it runs on supply and demand and (in baseball) on crazies who want to outspend each other.   Last year, the Mariners spent $240M for Cano's ages 32-41.  The Yankees spent $153M for Elsbury's ages 31-38, the Rangers $130M for Choo's ages 32-39. That establishes the market (and I expect that this season, it will get about 10-20% higher.  The Twins spent $184M for Mauer's ages 28-35.  Which of those 4 contracts will be a better value?   Time will tell, but methinks Mauer's.  Thus, the Twins got Mauer bellow market. 

I may agree with your conclusion a bit, but you really shouldn't compare contracts from 2014 to contracts from 2010, at least not without some hefty qualifiers and adjustments.

 

At the time of its signing, Mauer's extension was the largest non-Arod deal in MLB history, both in total dollars and in AAV.  Hard to argue that it was *significantly* below market.

 

Teixeira signed for ever-so-slightly less the previous winter, and obviously played a less important defensive position, but catchers also play less than any other position, so Teixeira actually averaged basically the same WAR per full season as Mauer prior to their respective deals, was only one year older at the time, and the Twins had to guarantee Mauer's contract one year before it even started.

 

Unless Mauer had repeated his crazy 2009 performance in 2010 (which I hope the Twins didn't expect, but you never know), I don't think he gets significantly more than 8/184 on the open market that winter.

 

The time to get a notably below-market deal with Mauer was a few years earlier.  I wonder if TR or Mauer was the hold-up on that -- I suspect TR because he never bought out more than a year beyond free agency for anybody, even after the Target Field deal was struck in 2005, and Mauer doesn't strike me as someone who would ever want to leave Minnesota (although he certainly may have wanted to maximize his leverage/earnings here).

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Forgive me, but part of what made Joe Mauer worth the money the Twins paid was that he was a Minnesota boy, and that he was, at the time, a catcher. 

 

Suddenly, with the position change, and especially an off year, he has become a $10-15 million a year player at best and would be hard pressed to get a 4-5 year deal. If he was with the Twins, he would've gotten a QO for sure.

 

But past batting titles aside, his worth to most teams are a catcher. If he was playing third, or if we truly knew how strong his legs and arms would be in the outfield, he might garner a bit more.

 

So, yes, we can now look back and say the Twins either got a long-term bargain, or Joe set himself for a lifetime contract that paid more than if he had entered free agency and signed a five year deal, say, and now was looking at Big Contract #2.

 

The bigger question that eats my soul is what we need to pay Joe for years 36-40 and is he worth it. Will he give us a hometown discount of a measly $50 million to stay on and chase 3000 hits and be an enduring Twin, or will the front office happily cut him loose and then we can argue (albeit a few more years of his stats to hum about) if his contract was a blessing or truly a curse for this team. Is he truly a $250 million dollar man for this team?

He may have been a catcher when he signed the deal but NOBODY expected he would be a catcher for the last half of the deal.  He probably just switched positions a year or two earlier than expected.  Baseball's a funny game you don't always get paid WHEN you produce but when hit free agency.  He got paid less than $18 million combined for the three years he won batting championships.

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The worst thing about the Mauer deal is that the Twins didn't even get the kind of production you expect at the front end to deal with the blow of the value in the back end of the contract.  Ugh.

Subject line contains Mauer = open season on revisiting the current contract.

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Subject line contains Mauer = open season on revisiting the current contract.

 

I wasn't revisiting it, it was the right move at the time.  But in a thread about hypotheticals about Mauer's current value it is relevant to talk about how his value has played out compared to the deal we signed.

 

It's a shame reasonable estimations of his value over the deal haven't even been met and that's sort of reflected in where we'd be at with this hypothetical.

 

So no, your sarcastic remark is totally out of line.

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I wasn't revisiting it, it was the right move at the time.  But in a thread about hypotheticals about Mauer's current value it is relevant to talk about how his value has played out compared to the deal we signed.

 

It's a shame reasonable estimations of his value over the deal haven't even been met and that's sort of reflected in where we'd be at with this hypothetical.

 

So no, your sarcastic remark is totally out of line.

All right, if none but a literal and straightforward post will suit you:

 

Moderator's note: the original poster asked twice, and politely, to address the question of what Mauer could obtain in the FA market if he were to enter it now.  Please refrain from bringing up the well-traveled terrain of the current deal.

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Cool heads prevail my friends! Mauer's contract is a reality of life. We need to get busy living or get busy dying over that subject. Either way, It will not fill the empty void, sooth our souls, or buy us dinner tomorrow. Let's be friends and throw it in the trash can.

 

Absolutely!  It was more just a reflection in sadness on a player career and the many unfortunate stumbling blocks we've hit along the way to this hypothetical where even in an open market willing to spend insane amounts of money on players with all sorts of warts, our franchise guy is likely to take half what we're currently paying him.

 

Such is life and that is no commentary on anything more.

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The more interesting aspect of this conversation to me is the percentage of these 6+ year deals that end up being somewhere between bad and horrible.  The rate of failure is actually good news for teams like the Twins because the high rate of failure provides small and mid-market teams  the potential to compete.

 

I think some are using what Mauer would get today is a relative measure of how the deal is playing out but that is a micro view.  It offers little in terms of developing strategy.  How most of these deals play out  explains why teams outside the top 10 in revenue don't sign them.  The question to me is how should the Twins use the revenue advantage they have over teams like Tampa and Oakland to improve on their models.  That's how I see St. Louis.  They just have about double the revenue delta in comparison to the Twins.

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Agreed.  The mega deals get fans excited but, IMO, teams would be far better off never or rarely doing them.  Trade them for prospects and start developing the next superstar.

I would agree. If Billy Beane was in Florida, he would trade Stanton for prospects and let the contract be someone else's problem. 

 

You talk a gamble like we did on Willingham. Like we have with Nolasco. The hard part is evaluating what a player will do versus what he has done. And we can argue that Mauer was vastly underpaid during his batting title seasons and it doesn't matter what he is paid then later, it will all balance out.

 

I always like the example of hired gun Jack Morris, leaving the Tigers because he couldn't get extended to what he wanted (which they should maybe have done because he gave them so much for so long) and instead playing the market each and every year fighting his age and stats. All he needed to get closer to what he wanted was to have more than a team interested in his services and a good agent bluff.

 

There is no telling what a market will bear. And we all don't know the ins-and-outs of ALL players in a system and why a team chooses to block possible prospects, or trade them away. It is as much of a game behind the scenes as it is on the field.

 

I go back to what I put in an earlier post. At some point, when this is all done and over, we have to ask ourselves was Joe worth $200 million...and if he extends out...$250 million (half the current worth of the franchise -- of thereabouts) over 20 years. Did he put butts in the seats, the brand on the map, solid play in the field taking ALL matters of health, team et al into play. 

 

We can question that he stopped catching too soon. That he pushed Morneau out of the picture as Morneau pushed Mientkiewicz and Joe himself did A.J. That if we knew he wasn't going to catch in 2014, would we have kept Ramos and stayed with Rauch. 

 

Joe's contract was a smart move by the Twins and Mauer, to establish and keep a franchise player in the mix, who has excellent local family ties, created his own brand of Minnesota Twins, does play hard, but is only...human.

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