Not that the Red Sox had much of a shot at signing catcher Joe Mauer when he was due to hit free agency this winter — but the chance of doing so now sits comfortably at zero percent.
Mauer, who turns 27 next month, secured a big payday Sunday evening, agreeing to an eight-year contract extension with the Minnesota Twins that will begin next season. The deal is worth a reported $184 million, with Mauer earning $23 million per year. The extension also includes a full no-trade clause.
This is a great move for both Mauer and the Twins. Last year’s MVP and batting title champion has quickly become the face of that franchise and now will continue to do so while making a very comfortable living. The Twins, on the other hand, were in dire need of some good news after losing their closer Joe Nathan for the season. Nathan is scheduled to undergo Tommy John surgery after suffering an elbow injury while pitching against the Red Sox on March 6th.
They also will open their new ballpark, Target Field, on April 12th against Boston. Having Joe Mauer — now signed through 2018 — trot onto that new field will make the awaiting Minnesota fans very happy.
Many Sox fans — and likely members of the Boston front office — were holding out hope that Mauer would somehow make it to free agency. This would have undoubtedly sparked a bidding war for the All-Star catcher between the Sox and the Yankees. Both Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek’s contracts expire after 2010 have little for catching prospects on the horizon. The Yankees have the aging Jorge Posada behind the plate and definitely would have loved to see Mauer in pinstripes — no matter what the cost.
While Theo Epstein and Co. knew that Joe Mauer with a ‘B’ on his cap in 2011 was a long shot at best — a daydream, more like it — the Mauer-Twins deal should intensify talks with Victor Martinez. Martinez has made it clear that he would like to remain with the Sox, but the years and the price will have to be right for the Sox to commit to the 31-year-old long term.