Joe Mauer will decide he wants to play, because he loves to compete. The Twins will decide they want him back, because there are not going to be a lot of top flight first-base-type sluggers available on the free agent market. Plus, the Twins weren't adept at getting on base this year (.314 OBP, 9th in the AL), so Mauer remains a good fit.
However, I anticipate some drama, at least privately and probably publicly, around the two sides coming to an agreement. This will be the fourth significant negotiation between Mauer and the Twins: there was the draft negotiation, the long-term deal that bought out his initial free agent year, and the $23M-per-year long-term deal. In all three of those, Mauer never advertised that he was willing to take any kind of hometown discount and pushed the team to its limit. (It's almost, again, like he loves to compete.) So I expect him to ask for more guaranteed years and more guaranteed money than the Twins will expect, and I wouldn't be surprised if we hear rumors of him being courted by other teams, or that an agreement isn't reached until later in the offseason.
But ultimately, I think a one-year deal or a team-friendly two-year deal will get done. That might be my heart overruling my head. Or maybe my head is assuming that hearts will hold sway over heads on both sides of the negotiation. Either way, I hope this goes the way of "heart."
Short answer: He'll do whatever he wants.
Longer answer: If he wants to play, he'll be signed by the Twins for a 1-2 year deal. He could retire if he no longer enjoys it, but clearly, he's been healthy again the last couple of years and he still contributes to the Twins in multiple ways.
The deeper we get into the season without an announcement, the more I feel like Joe is going to play in 2019.
The Mauers are going to be welcoming the third child into their family sometime around Thanksgiving, and I'm sure that's going to play a huge role in what Joe decides about his future. I believe him when he says he hasn't really thought about it or come to a conclusion yet, but I think there will be strong interest, from the Twins, in a reunion.
It's impossible to know what's really going through his head, but I think if the Twins make any kind of honest effort to bring him back, as I expect they will, he'll be back.
I genuinely think that Joe returns to the Twins in 2019. I initially believed there was room for a 2- or 3-year deal, but think he'll sign a one-year pact this winter. If everything goes well, I could see him returning in 2020 as well. At the end of the day, he's an ideal leadoff hitter, and remains among the best defensive first basemen in all of baseball. The Twins should be doing what they can to push him into returning, and it'd be a good thing for them if he obliges.
I’m not sure what to think after some of the decisions made by the front office this week. Falvey and Levine might decide they want to keep him around or they could decide to go in another direction. Mauer could find himself waffling through multiple emotions as well.
Joe Mauer has the potential to be in the conversation of best Twins player of all-time. According to FanGraphs WAR, only Harmon Killebrew (59.3 fWAR) and Rod Carew (56.9 fWAR) have amassed more career value in a Twins uniform. Mauer might never catch those two or live up to the legend of Kirby Puckett but he’s still a once in a generation talent.
I think Mauer’s competitive side wins out and we will see him back with the Twins next season. Like any player, I believe he wants to make the Hall of Fame and he will need to continue to put up numbers for multiple more seasons to pad his resume. That being said, I think he only plays for another season or two.
I’ll make this short. I think Joe Mauer retires.
I think the current front office will decide they want to move on from having Mauer as their primary first baseman, they will communicate that to him, and he will choose to retire rather than accept a reserve role.
Is it what I would do? No. If I were Mauer, I’d have my agent shop me around for a regular spot with a potential contender, so I could get my ring. But, from all accounts, that’s not what Mauer is likely to do.
But with a growing family, financial security and being at risk of further head injuries, I suspect that he will hang up the spikes, rather than accept a role where he’s watching as much as (or more than) playing.
If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links: