Monday, January 19, 2009

Signing Joe

Friday I wrote about Twins players who are are ripe for signing a long-term deal. And on Saturday, Jim Souhan pointed out there is another guy that the Twins should be targeting:

What is the immediate lesson to be learned from recent history?

That the Twins should sign Joe Mauer to a long-term deal as quickly as possible, because this is the rare athlete our local teams can't afford to trade, or lose, under any circumstances.

Easier said than done. The difference between the guys we reviewed on Friday and Mauer is that Mauer could not be much harder to sign to a deal beyond his contract that ends after 2010. In fact, when you look at the deals, it might be impossible. Here's what the Twins would need to overcome:

The Money
This is the obvious one, right? Consider that Ivan Rodriguez and Jorge Posada both received $13 million/year contracts within the last couple of years. That puts the the starting bid for Mauer at $14M. And climbing.

Oh, and it's not like the offer of giving him guaranteed money early is particularly enticing. Mauer isn't exactly looking for two nickels to rub together. He's already in the middle of a contract that is paying him $33 million. And that's not including the $5 million signing bonus that he got just for getting drafted. Is an extra $28 million, two-year extension really going to be all that appealing? Not given...

The Timing
Joe Mauer will be just 27 years old when he becomes a free agent. That means that any team signing him will be singing him for the prime years of his career, and will bid accordingly. They can also have confidence that he'll be productive offensively for the length of a very long contract, meaning lots of guaranteed years.

For instance, the Yankees just signed Mark Teixera an 8-year deal, and he was a year older than Mauer will be. And that contract also had a full no-trade clause, giving him...

Freedom of Choice
A no-trade clause would almost be mandatory, since Mauer isn't going to want to accept a trade to just any team. Especially if he signs with the Twins because it's his hometown.

But it goes further than that. There were a few instance this year where premier free agents also received opt-out clauses in their contract. That way, if things go south for an organization, or salaries soar, or if a player just wants to have some leverage with his head coach, he can opt out of his contract early.

Considering that the Twins tend to rebuild every couple of years, and that their inaction this offseason doesn't exactly scream "commitment to winning", can you imagine an opt-out not being included? And then, do you really have a long-term deal? For instance, if there is an opt-out clause after 2012, aren't we having this same conversation two years from now?

So Do You REALLY Want To Sign Him?
Try and digest all of the above. So you really want to sign Mauer? If so, you had better bring a monster offer, something like this....

Keep the two year deal you still have in place:
2009 - $10.5M
2010 - $12.5M

Add a seven-year extension with escalating pay:
2011 - $14M
2012 - $15M
2013 - $16M
2014 - $17M
2015 - $18M
2016 - $19M
2017 - $20M

That's essentiall a nine-year, $142 million contract. It will also need to have a full no-trade clause. And it will likely need to have opt-out clauses when he's 28 (after 2011) and 31 (after 2014). Meaning you'll be talking about him possibly opting out for most of then next six years.

And if he ends up having knee problems again, or never hits for power, or never really tries to hit for power, that is the team's problem, not Joe's. That money is guaranteed.

Still convinced they need to sign Joe as soon as possible?


haasertime said...

We should probably sign him or Morneau. But probably not both. And we wouldn't be able to sign both anyway. The new stadium revenue should be the excuse to give the first ridiculous contract in Twins history. (not counting Mike Lamb)

I think we'll need one of these breakdowns about Morneau, John.

SethSpeaks said...

Morneau is signed for:

2009 - $10.6 million
2010 - $14 million
2011 - $14 million
2012 - $14 million
2013 - $14 million

And he got a $6 million bonus for signing it in 2008.

Anonymous said...

What's the track record for Catching contracts in years?

That many years for a catcher seems a bit out of whack.

However, I am a proponent to signing him to an extension otherwise they might as well try to trade him to the Red Sox now for max return.

Anonymous said...

Mauer is a special athlete. He was a total stud in football and basketball (e.g.,semi-final game vs Osseo) as well as baseball. While he does not hit for power, which is really important, his value has been shown by many sides in debates across the baseball blogging world as superior and his peers view him with a rare respect shown in the athletic world. I believe Joe deserves and will earn every penny of a monster contract. The only issue will be the Twins willingness to meet the price and perhaps business will dictate a different decision. What a loss that would be. Despite the rare, occasional lapse, Joe Mauer is every pitcher's ideal catcher and then he does what no catcher has ever done in the American League; he wins batting titles and runs the bases with uncanny skill. Watch him play and enjoy every game.

Breaker said...

I think a seven year extension is a bit much. Catchers rarely remain productive after about the age of 32 or 33. Offering Joe a seven year deal on top of the two years remaining puts him at 36. That is really pushing it.

If the Twins are smart, they offer to tack four years on to the end of the current deal. That lets Mauer try for one more giant contract before that 'wall' at age 32 or 33. See Posada last year, and (less successfully) Varitek this year. They were/are a bit older, but you get the idea.

If they're really smart, they offer a four year extension on top of the two remaining years, and then include two more club option years. Probably won't be accepted by Joe, but it doesn't hurt to ask! Heck, you can even guarantee them if he has OPS of over .750 or .800 the previous year.

The annual salaries you threw out don't look out of line, I just don't think it is smart for the Twins to tie themselves to a catcher for big money and big years. Big money is fine, especially because Joe is worth it from a performance and a public relations standpoint, but nine years is too much.

Jesse H said...

I think there are a few more factors you didn't mention:

1. Catchers are known to break down quicker then other players and no GM would go 7 years. In fact the Posada contract is 4 years and the Rodriguez contract was 4 years but only the first 2 were guaranteed. I don't see this going more then 4-5 years, if that.

2. Our payroll surplus this year can help this out.

3. I am assuming that Joe Mauer likes playing here where he is the hometown boy and the big guy on the team as opposed to star #6 on the Yankees or Red Sox.

I really think that something like this could happen:

Bonus - $10M
2009 - $14M
2010 - $14M
2011 - $14M
2012 - $14M
2013 - $14M
2014 - $14M
2015 - $14M

This comes out to a 5 yr/$85 Million and gives Joe a number of very nice reasons to sign.

1. $13.5 million in additional funds this year in Bonus and increased salary. It is tough to turn that down immediately.

2. $14 million a year is the highest catcher salary in the league and would tie him with Justin on the team.

3. Morneau, Mauer, and Nathan will make under $40 million in 2011. This leaves lots of room on a payroll that should be around $100-$110 million to sign complementary players.

I think something can get done and probablly should considering the payroll flexibility they have this year.

Nick N. said...

I've got to say John, I find it a little odd that just a couple weeks ago you complained about the Twins' unwillingness to spend money or hand out long-term contracts, and now you seem so lukewarm on the proposition of locking up their best player and probably one of the best players in team history.

Of course they need to re-sign Mauer, whatever the cost.

RF Interference said...

Mauer is such a stud because his gold glove caliber defense behind the plate is coupled with an on-base percentage that is phenominal for a catcher. There isn't another catcher like him in baseball.

He is also unusually tall for a catcher and already had part of his left medial meniscus removed.

The Twins should wait until Mauer is closer to free agency before offering him a large amount of gauranteed money. It'll cost them more, but given their relative payroll constraints, avoiding the risk seems worth it to me.

A third baseman or designated hitter that bats .315/.400/.450 is valuable, but not at the prices being thrown around in the comments section here.

CA said...

Under your contractual terms (an extension worth 7 years, $119M, since '09 and '10 are already guaranteed), I think it's a no-brainer even before you consider his value as a face of the franchise.

Some selected MLB contracts:
Soriano: 8 years, $136M (starting in '07)
Vernon Wells: 7 years, $126M (starting in '08)
Mark Teixeira: 8 years, $180M (starting in '09)
Manny: 8 years, $160M (starting in '01)
Jeter: 10 years, $189M (starting in '01)

Note that the two superstar contracts from 8 years ago are still bigger than 7/$119M. And by 2011 those contracts will be 10 years old.

Mauer doesn't hit as many home runs as some of those guys, but if healthy he's likely to be a perennial OBP guy/batting title candidate/MVP candidate at a position that does not feature much offense. A seven year extension for $119M starting in 2011 is an absolute steal when you consider what he'd get on the open market after the 2010 season.

scottiedawg said...

According to Fangraphs WinValues, Mauer's fair market value last year was 26.4 million dollars. That doesn't even include his defense which would likely put his value in the neighborhood of 30M. That is what teams are paying for that type of skill set in the free agent market. As a free agent in two years, I wouldn't be surprised to see Mauer get a contract of at least 20M per year. 8 guaranteed years for a catcher may be a bit much, but 6/132? It's going to be a ton. Especially with Jorge Posada, and Jason Varitek reaching the end of their respective careers, the Yankees and the Red Sox will likely loosen the budget strings for such an asset.

Anonymous said...

If the Twins trade Mauer, trade him to the Vikings in return for Cash... Vikings get their QB and the Twins get cash to buy some players...

Anonymous said...

If the Twins trade Mauer, trade him to the Vikings for cash... That way the Queens get their QB and the twins can go buy some players...