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Mauer Future Looks Unsure Past 2018

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July 30, 2017

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A Sunday notes column leading off with the Twins:

Joe Mauer’s $184 million, eight-year contract with the Twins ends after next season.  What happens then?

“I think Joe has a big say in that in terms of what his interest is in playing beyond the 2018 season,” Twins president Dave St. Peter said.  “I don’t think Joe is there yet (on a decision)—at least I haven’t seen that back from him yet.

“But we’ll sit down at the appropriate time.  I would guess it would be at the end of the 2018 season. Joe will assess where he’s at, where his family is at. A dialogue with Joe and/or his representatives will take place at the appropriate time.”

Mauer will be 35 when next season ends.  The Minnesota native and sports legend has fought through a lot of physical challenges including at least one concussion.  How much more stress does he want to put on his body?  The guess here is that Mauer, a dedicated family man with a wife and two young children, will end his career and retire as a Twin—the only pro baseball organization he’s ever played for.

Mauer is among the team’s leading hitters for average (.280) and has been clutch this season driving in runners in scoring position.  But his production as a hitter is considerably less than earlier in his career when hitting over .300 was routine and his name was among the first to be considered for an American League batting title.

St. Peter referred to Mauer as a “huge asset” for the organization, including because of his high character.  The Twins’ boss also praised Mauer’s timely hitting this season and for putting himself “in contention for a Gold Glove at first base.”

The Twins don’t work on contracts with players during the season so there’s no reason to expect discussion of a new deal with Mauer to receive attention until after the 2018 season.  If Mauer were willing to accept a lesser role (part-time starter, for example) and drastic reduction in salary, it seems likely the Twins would invite him to compete for a roster spot in 2019.

The MLB trading deadline is tomorrow.  Regarding a trade, St. Peter told Sports Headliners on Friday, “I expect on some level the Twins will participate.”

This morning the Twins announced they have acquired two minor league prospects from the Yankees, left-handed pitcher Dietrich Enns and right-handed pitcher Zack Littell, in exchange for veteran left-handed pitcher Jamie García and cash considerations.

Enns, 26, was 1-1 with a 2.29 ERA in seven starts for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season. Enns is on the Twins’ 40-man roster and will report to Triple-A Rochester.

Littell, 21, was 14-1 with a 1.87 ERA in 20 appearances (18 starts) between Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this season.  Littell will report to Double-A Chattanooga.

Garcia, 31, made one start for the Twins since being acquired from Atlanta July 24, earning a win a couple of days ago against the Athletics after pitching 6.2 innings.  The trade of the established starter to the Yankees will be seen by many Twins fans as an indication the front office is unsure about staying in the race for the postseason and is taking a build-for-the-future approach.  Minnesota has lost seven of its last 10 games, has a 50-52 record and is seven games out of first place in the AL Central Division.

Among reasons the Twins are playing under .500 baseball and fading in pursuit of winning at least half their games this season is their record against MLB’s better teams.  The Twins were swept last week in a three-game interleague series against the National League West Division leading Dodgers.  The Twins are 0-6 against the AL West leading Astros, 2-5 versus the AL East second place Red Sox and 5-8 against the first place Indians—Minnesota’s rival in the AL Central.

That’s a combined 7-22 against three of the better teams in baseball.  In their losses to the Red Sox and Astros, the Twins were out-scored 47-13 and 22-7. Overall, the Twins have shown a lot of improvement after last season’s 59-102 record.

Eden Prairie’s football team starts practice August 14 and coach Mike Grant told Sports Headliners Gophers recruit Benny Sapp III is the best cornerback in the state.  Sapp, a Florida transfer and son of former Viking defensive back Benny Sapp, has never played in a varsity game because of injuries but Grant has seen enough of the Eagles senior to rave about him.

“Most importantly, he’s just a great kid,” Grant said. “If he couldn’t play a lick, we would like to have him.”

Grant will also use Sapp, who has verbally committed to the Gophers, at receiver and as a return man.  “He has tremendous speed and great hands,” Grant said.

Grant wants to get Sapp as “many touches” in games as possible.  That was the mission two years ago with explosive running back and return man J.D. Spielman, a breakaway threat now on scholarship at Nebraska.  “He (Sapp) is probably as fast as Spielman, or faster,” Grant said.

Another Eagle with Gopher ties is junior quarterback Cole Kramer, the grandson of former U football player and athletic director Tom Moe.  Grant refers to Kramer as a “top five quarterback” in the state.  A starter last season, Kramer has added weight and muscle.

“He could go on a college team right now and throw with them (other quarterbacks),” Grant said. “His arm is that strong.”

Grant, who has been coaching at Eden Prairie since 1992, isn’t willing to call Kramer his best ever quarterback because he hasn’t won a state title.  That might change this fall, though, because Grant likes the talent and work ethic of his team, despite having only five returnees on offense and three on defense.

Grant’s father, legendary former Vikings coach Bud Grant, has been hosting annual garage sales.  Mike said three years ago was supposed to be the final one but they keep coming including last spring’s which ended a day before Bud’s 90th birthday.  Mike predicted “still going strong at 91” could be the theme of next year’s sale.

Grant & Boom

The lines were long this year, partially because Grant was selling a bobblehead depicting him wearing a Vikings cap and jacket, holding a duck, and accompanied by his hunting dog Boom. Mike is suggesting a double-bobblehead for next year with Grant and his longtime friend Sid Hartman.  Grant could be dressed in a red check hunting shirt, with Hartman in a suit and holding a microphone.  “That would be perfect,” Mike said.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer talking about where he expects to play 38-year-old Terence Newman:  “Terence is a corner. That is where he is going to play, and if we need him at nickel or safety or some other spot then we will do that, but he’s a corner.”

Zimmer on free-agent acquisition Riley Reiff who is expected to start at left tackle on offense:  “…I really like his demeanor. He’s going to try and hurt you, if he can hurt you. I think that’s going to bode well for us as we move forward.”

John Kundla, who died earlier this month at age 101, received a lot of praise for coaching the Minneapolis Lakers to five pro championships, but he didn’t receive enough credit for providing playing opportunities for African-Americans at the University of Minnesota.  When Kundla coached the Gophers in the mid-1960s he started three African-Americans, Archie Clark, Lou Hudson and Don Yates.  That was a first at Minnesota and unusual in major college basketball where prejudice was part of sports and American society.

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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.

(1) Reader Comment

  1. avatar
    Vic Roych
    August 2, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Your graph about John Kundla brought back memories.

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