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Joe Mauer Re-Do on Contract Now Due?

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August 31, 2015

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The opinion here is Joe Mauer should consider restructuring his contract with the Twins in a meeting with club officials after the season ends.

Mauer has three years remaining on a deal he signed in 2010 that pays him $23 million annually through 2018.  His $184 million eight-year contract is the richest in Twins history, making him one of the best paid major league baseball players ever.

Mauer presumably has so much money from his current deal, plus earnings prior to his 2010 contract, he can take care of not only his immediate family but future generations.  At a season-ending exit interview he and the Twins could propose adding three more years to his contract with no change in compensation.  Instead of paying Mauer $23 million annually in 2016-2018, Mauer would make $11.5 million each year from 2016-2021.

My proposed change in contract benefits both the Twins and Mauer.  The club’s annual payroll decreases with a revised Mauer deal, enhancing the possibility of the franchise adding more quality players to help the already revitalized team push toward championships in the years ahead.  Even more practically, the organization can be better positioned to re-sign its nucleus of best contributors on the present roster.

A contract re-do would allow Mauer to demonstrate leadership and willingness to sacrifice for a franchise that has won four division titles during his 12-year career, but never a pennant or World Series, and has struggled through 90-plus loss seasons in 2011-2014.  News about a revised contract would be a public relations coup for the Minnesota native who has heard plenty of boos and criticism during the last couple of years.  He hit .277 with four home runs and 55 RBI during a disappointing season in 2014 that included a 15-day stretch on the disabled list.  This season the health has been better but it’s more of the same statistically with a .271 average and eight home runs and 55 RBI.

With Mauer being 32 years old and coming off a concussion in 2013, doubts grow stronger about whether he will ever again be the player who started this season with a .319 career batting average—the seventh best in major league baseball since 1950.  But Mauer’s numbers during the last two seasons for a first baseman and someone who usually hits No. 3 in the batting order are out of whack for what’s expected.

The Twins awarded Mauer his extraordinary contract because of his three batting titles, MVP season in 2009 and immense popularity in Minnesota as the club prepared to move into its new ballpark, planning to maximize ticket sales and other revenues at Target Field.  Given those realities, paying Mauer a mega-sum was appropriate.  But now circumstances and reality are different, and even if Mauer approaches past performance next year or in 2017, his past compensation and proposed earnings of $11.5 million through 2021 would be fair for a player who will be nearly 40 when that contract expires.

Mauer is known as a quiet figure in the clubhouse.  He’s a good role model for teammates, though, because of his character and midwestern values.  In the past he’s mostly made his statements with on-field performances at the plate, and also catching and now at first base.  By re-doing his contract, he could make another statement and contribution to the organization.

And one other incentive, Joe.  The taxman figures to go easier on you at $11.5 million per year than $23 million.

Worth Noting

Richard Pitino

Richard Pitino

The nonconference schedule for coach Richard Pitino’s team was announced this afternoon.  Highlights include the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament in San Juan where the Gophers will play three games in four days starting with Temple on November 19.  Clemson plays at Williams Arena on November 30 as part of the 2015 Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

After home games December 5 and 8 against South Dakota and South Dakota State, Minnesota will play Oklahoma State in Sioux Falls on December 12 in a neutral court matchup at the Sanford Pentagon.  The Gophers open their Big Ten schedule on the road at Ohio State on December 30.  Minnesota’s first Big Ten home game is January 2 against Michigan State.

The Twins have won eight of their last 10 games and remain in contention for a wild card spot in the American League playoffs.  Among the interesting storylines before the season was that starting pitchers Phil Hughes, Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana were thought to be key figures in determining the team’s chances of playing meaningful games in August.  Hughes has struggled this season and been on the disabled list much of the month.  Nolasco hasn’t pitched since May 31, and has also been on the disabled list.  Santana missed the first half of the season because of a suspension and has been mostly disappointing since his return, although he was impressive yesterday giving up no runs in seven innings against the Astros while striking out 10 batters.

Before the season neither third baseman Miguel Sano nor center fielder Byron Buxton had played higher than Class AA in the minor leagues.  The hope was at least one of the two super prospects would play for the Twins this year.  Both are making major contributions to the big league club after recalls from the minors.  After less than 200 at bats, Sano has hit 13 home runs with 45 RBI and has a .287 average.  He has been invaluable for a team that sometimes struggles to score runs.

Sano has hit a home run every 13.2 times at the plate.  Twins Hall of Fame slugger Harmon Killebrew homered at a rate of 14.2.  He hit 573 career home runs.

Former Gophers athletic director McKinley Boston is retired from the same position at New Mexico State.  Boston continues to live in New Mexico where his grandson Jaylon Boston, playing for Centennial High School, was second team all-state as a sophomore running back last season.

The Vikings placed veteran cornerback Josh Robinson on the physically unable to perform list today.  They also cut offensive tackle Carter Bykowski, the Eden Prairie native who has two years of NFL experience after playing at Iowa State.

The Vikings have about 12 acres of land at Winter Park where the club has offices and practice facilities. The organization needs more room and about the only way to expand at the present site is vertically.  The Vikings have a purchase agreement in Eagan for 185 acres on the former Northwest Airlines site.  A Vikings spokesman said the club is performing due diligence on the property now.

Names to speculate as candidates for the Gophers athletic director vacancy include at least two from the West.  Tina Kunzer-Murphy is one of the few female athletic directors at a major school.  Murphy, the wife of former Gophers quarterback Greg Murphy, has been the athletic director at UNLV since midway through the 2013-2014 school year.  She has held high level administrative positions in athletics at UNLV and Pacific.

Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson is from Redwood Falls, Minnesota and is a University of Minnesota journalism graduate.  He has been commissioner of three college conferences including the Mountain West since 1998 and has extensive relationships in college athletics.  He’s a known innovator and creative thinker with a high regard for academics and sportsmanship.  He’s served on more than two dozen NCAA groups addressing issues such as playoffs, licensing and officiating.

Congratulations to Albany High School football coach Mike Kleinschmidt who won his 100th career game last Friday night with a 38-7 win over St. Cloud Cathedral.  He has been a head coach for 13 years, all at Albany, and his overall career record is 100-33.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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