If the Twins don't sign him to an extension, Joe Mauer will hit the free agent market after 2010 as a 27-year-old catcher with at least two batting titles and two All-Star Game selections to his name. Already, some writers are starting to speculate on the sort of contract Mauer could command. In the last week heavyweights Peter Gammons and Nick Cafardo both suggested Mauer could sign a deal worth over $180MM and Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press made a similar suggestion today. Here are some of the reasons Mauer could command the biggest contract in baseball history not signed by Alex Rodriguez or Derek Jeter.
- At 27, Mauer will have plenty of good years left when he becomes a free agent. Remember Jorge Posada signed a four-year deal after his age 35 season.
- Most teams- we'll exclude those with talented young catchers like the Orioles, Braves and Dodgers- could upgrade at catcher. This should leave Mauer with many suitors, including high bidders like the Red Sox and possibly the Yankees.
- Most importantly, he's one of the game's best players. Even if you set aside his Bonds-esque 2009 OPS of 1.344, he's always had good strikeout to walk ratios and entered this year with a career OPS of .856.
- Throw in his defense and teams will be lining up for Mauer.
But a lot has to go right for him to be in a position to command close to $200MM.
- He has to stay healthy.
- Since he's most appealing as a catcher, teams will have to be confident that Mauer can catch long-term if they're going to offer him Mark Teixeira-type money.