Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Joe Mauer and the "Legacy Contract"

How will the Twins keep Joe Mauer off the 2011 free agent market? With a "legacy contract" that might, if you listen to yesterday's reports, keep Mauer under contract with the Twins for ten seasons:

In reality, it's complicated, as the Twins are working on something CEO Jim Pohlad calls "a legacy contract." It will recognize what Mauer has done for the franchise until now, and what he will do in the future, and it could be worth at least $20 million per year.

Two people close to the Mauer family suggested the framework of a deal -- the number of years and guaranteed money -- could already be in place, with the sides working on details such as deferred compensation. But people closer to the negotiations would not confirm this.

This type of deal could become dangerous for the Twins. While it would be a home run in short term, the long term implications of a "legacy contract" with Mauer could be devastating. Mauer is obviously a rare and unique talent, who means more to the Twins and to Minnesota than any words will be able to describe, but giving a catcher a ten year contract seems like an awfully risky move. The Twins might not have many other options at this point if they want to keep Mauer, but committing so many years to a player, who plays the most demanding position in baseball is tough for me to feel good about.

I have no problem paying Joe Mauer $18-$20 million dollars annually because that's what he's worth (and probably more) on the open market, but committing to Mauer for 10 years will lock him up until he's 36. The risk of Mauer breaking down or missing significant time because of injury is high as long as he's still catching.

This situation is a catch 22 for the Twins because they need to keep Mauer around long term for the short term and long term future of the franchise, but by committing to him for so many years, they might pay for the deal towards the end of the contract. I still think a 7-8 year guaranteed deal would be ideal for the Twins and if Mauer is set on the deal reaching ten years in length, then give him the opportunity to extend the deal a year or two with options based on his health, performance, game played, at bats, etc.

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