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Joe Mauer Rumors
ESPN's Jayson Stark spoke with Twins first baseman Joe Mauer about the transition from catching everyday to becoming a regular first baseman. Stark also spoke with several instructors around Twins camp, including Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and three-time All-Star Terry Steinbach, about the changes facing Mauer and what can be expected of him going forward. Stark puts Mauer's transition into some surprising historical context, noting that Joe Torre is the only player in Major League history to log 300+ games at another position after catching his 900th game. Mauer has some experience at first, having started 54 games there over the past few seasons, but admits that those games aren't the same: "You know, the last few seasons, when I’d get out there, it was kind of a day off from catching, and it was kind of like, go out there and do your best. But now, it’s your job. So you’d better do it right."
Here are some more Twins links for your Thursday afternoon…
- Agent Damon Lapa, who represents second baseman Brian Dozier and right-hander Kevin Correia, is expected to be in Twins camp this weekend and will have informal extension discussions with assistant GM Rob Antony, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. In a second tweet, Berardino quotes Dozier, who broke out in 2013 with a 3.8 rWAR/2.8 fWAR season, as saying: "The Twins have done it before. Those can benefit both sides. We're still open to the idea."
- While Spring Training has been kind to Chris Parmelee in the past, MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger notes that this time around is quite a bit different for the former first-round pick. Parmelee is out of options and knows that with Mauer penciled in as the everyday first baseman and the corner outfield spots likely full, his role on the club could be diminished. Parmelee was one of the players that Tim Dierkes and I examined in today's post on AL Central players that are out of options.
- While much was made of the Twins' pursuit of Jarrod Saltalamacchia this winter, Antony tells Berardino that A.J. Pierzynski was "no doubt" the team's No. 1 catching target this offseason. Pierzynski himself said back in December that the Twins made him a two-year offer. Antony said he wouldn't rule out pursuing Pierzynski in the future and has no hard feelings that he didn't take Minnesota's recent offer: "I understand; he got a chance to join the world champs. A.J. is a competitor. I don't think it was an easy decision. He told a lot of people that: 'God, I would have loved to come back to Minnesota. This was a tough decision to make.'"
The 34-year-old saw 29 games of big league action for the Padres in 2012, hitting .133/.240/.193 in 98 plate appearances. For his career, Bartlett owns a .271/.336/.366 across nine major league seasons. With the deal, Bartlett returns to the club that he spent the first four seasons of his career with.
The Twins also announced that Joe Mauer will transition to being a full-time first baseman in 2014. The move was made "after consultation with doctors from Mayo Clinic and team doctors," according to the press release. Moving Mauer, who is owed $115MM over the next five years, to first base opens up a starting spot for 24-year-old Josmil Pinto behind the plate.
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals maintain there is a possibility for them to retain Ervin Santana this offseason. GM Dayton Moore has gone on the record in saying that Santana will get a qualifying offer, notes Dutton, and one club official pointed to the struggles that gave Kyle Lohse on last year's market. Lohse was significantly older than Santana, of course, but a qualifying offer does up the price to sign Santana for everyone other than the Royals. Dutton senses that at this time, the team doesn't want to go beyond three years, but that could change once they gauge the market. Here's more out of the AL Central…
- MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger tackles a host of Twins-related topics in his latest Twins Inbox, starting off by dismissing the notion that Joe Mauer's concussion and Josmil Pinto's impressive big league debut spell the end of Mauer's days behind the plate. Mauer and GM Terry Ryan both say that Mauer will still catch, and the proposed destination of first base for Mauer may not be vacant. Bollinger reports that Justin Morneau is a candidate to return to the team, but there mixed feelings about whether or not he'd return, as he may prefer to sign with a contender.
- Bollinger also notes that Brian Dozier's strong season at second base could make top prospect Eddie Rosario a trade chip to land starting pitching, or it could make Dozier himself a trade chip with Rosario nearing the big leagues. He adds that the Twins need to acquire starting pitching this summer, and Ryan will have the funds to do so via free agency and the prospects to do so via trade. Only Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Mauer (who has a full no-trade clause) are untouchable in trade talks this offseason, according to Bollinger.
- The White Sox gave a club-record $1.6MM signing bonus to Dominican outfield prospect Micker Adolfo this July, writes MLB.com's Scott Merkin, and GM Rick Hahn expects more of the same next season as he looks to rebuild the team following a 99-loss campaign. Hahn anticipates being allotted roughly $5MM to spend on international free agents, which should give him plenty of ammunition to be aggressive.
As the Cubs and Brewers square off in the first of a four-game series that could have serious implications on the 2014 MLB draft (one game separates the two teams who stand to pick fourth and fifth, respectively), let's take a look at baseball's Central divisions…
- The Twins don't feel that rookie Josmil Pinto is far from being a starting catcher at the Major League level, writes Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The 24-year-old Venezuelan hit .309/.400/.482 with 15 homers and an 83-to-66 K/BB ratio between Double-A and Triple-A this season and has seven hits in his first 10 big league at-bats. As Miller notes, Pinto's emergence makes Joe Mauer's future position "more unknown than ever." Twins GM Terry Ryan told Miller he "doesn't know exactly what [Mauer is] going to end up doing" in 2014. Minnesota also has 25-year-old Chris Herrmann and veteran Ryan Doumit on the roster. Herrmann and Doumit are both capable of playing the corner outfield positions.
- Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski is currently in the process of deciding whether or not to bring Jhonny Peralta back to the club for a potential postseason run, writes James Schmehl of MLive.com. Dombrowski says Peralta was forthright and handled the situation as best he could. The Tigers, of course, acquired Jose Iglesias to man shortstop in Peralta's stead and in the long-term at the trade deadline. Bringing Peralta back would likely displace one of Don Kelly, Matt Tuiasosopo or Ramon Santiago from the roster.
- Bruce Levine and Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com write that Scott Baker will make his season debut for the Cubs this Sunday — his first Major League start since Sept. 24, 2011. Baker underwent Tommy John surgery in Spring Training of 2012 with the Twins and signed a one-year, $5.5MM contract with the Cubs this offseason. Clearly, Chicago was hoping for an earlier return, but arm soreness in Spring Training of this season shut him down. Baker posted a 3.14 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 for Minnesota in 2011.
- New Cubs reliever Daniel Bard told MLB.com's Carrie Muskat that he was ready to hit free agency this offseason after being designated for assignment by the Red Sox and was pleasantly surprised to hear from Cubs president Theo Epstein when he was claimed. Bard doesn't feel that his struggles have resulted from switching from a relief role to a starting role, but rather from trying to change too much about his arsenal in the process: "I could’ve just taken the pitcher I was in the bullpen for four years and plopped that into a starting role and probably would’ve been fine," Bard told Muskat. Instead, he tried to increase his changeup usage, sink the ball more and change speeds on his fastball too often, and he feels that vast array of alterations was his downfall.
Twins Assistant GM Rob Antony says the team will not place Joe Mauer on waivers this month, tweets Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Twins placed Mauer on waivers last August and Antony said the move caused "just too much confusion."
Mauer cleared waivers a year ago and most likely would have again. The 30-year-old is owed $23MM per season through 2018 and has full no-trade protection thanks to the record-setting eight-year, $184MM contract extension he signed with the Twins in March 2010. Mauer is batting .320/.402/.463 in 443 plate appearances this year, just a tick below his career slash line of .323/.405/.467.
MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes will interview Peter Gammons of MLB Network tomorrow, and if you have any particular questions you’d like Tim to ask the Hall of Famer we’d like to hear them. To get in touch you can leave a comment below, reach us on Twitter (@mlbtraderumors) or use MLBTR’s contact form. Here are today’s links…
- An executive who asked the Twins about Joe Mauer heard the catcher isn't available, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reports (on Twitter). Not only does Mauer have a no-trade clause, he's the face of the Twins and Minnesota isn't looking to dump salary.
- Yahoo's Tim Brown tells the story of a recent meeting between Scott Boras and Marvin Miller. Check out Brown’s entire piece, which includes some thoughtful quotes from Boras and is definitely worth your time. Miller, the first executive director of the MLBPA, died this week at the age of 95.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com previews the outfield market in the aftermath of B.J. Upton’s five-year, $75.25MM contract with the Braves. The Phillies’ best offer to Upton was worth $55MM over five years, MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports (on Twitter). The Red Sox weren't in on Upton, but have been in on Shane Victorino, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports (on Twitter).
- Chan Ho Park is set to announce his retirement tomorrow, reports Korea's Yonhap News Agency (passed on by C. Trent Rosecrans of CBS Sports). The 39-year-old right-hander was the first Korean-born player to reach the Major Leagues, posting a 4.36 ERA in 476 games over his 17 seasons in MLB from 1994-2010. Park earned $85.46MM (hat tip to Baseball Reference) during his Major League career and pitched for seven teams. Park spent the last two seasons pitching in Japan and South Korea, respectively.
A look at the latest out of the American League East..
- We learned earlier today that the Yankees have not had serious talks with Ichiro Suzuki yet about a possible return and Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News adds that the club has yet to make an offer to any position player.
- The Red Sox inquired on Joe Mauer in September, October, and November and were repeatedly told by the Twins that he would not be traded, tweets Peter Gammons of MLB.com. If the Twins did have a change of heart, they would still have to work around the catcher’s full no-trade clause.
- The Orioles have had absolutely zero talks with Mark Reynolds on a new deal for next year, tweets Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. Meanwhile, Executive Vice President Dan Duquette says that they’ll be exploring a new deal with him between now and Friday, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter).
The Twins wrapped up their organizational meetings late last week, and Phil Mackey of 1500ESPN.com has the highlights. Mackey writes that the Twins' front office officials are embarrassed by the past two seasons, and that the majority of the team's offseason budget will be spent on starting pitching.
Mackey goes on to say that while the Twins' goal is to add three starters to what was a dreadful rotation in 2012, the team hasn't necessarily ruled out pursuing top arms like Zack Greinke. It's more likely that they'll pursue a handful of solid starters that can be counted on for quality starts and to spare the bullpen, however.
Of players on the current roster, only Scott Diamond will be penciled in for a rotation spot in 2013. The Twins are hopeful that Nick Blackburn will rediscover himself to provide some form of value next season, but his $5.5MM salary won't guarantee that he earns a chance. Blackburn was removed from the 40-man roster earlier this season.
In addition to free agency, trades will very much be in play for general manager Terry Ryan. Mackey writes that no one, aside from Joe Mauer (who has a full no-trade clause), will be off limits on the trade market.
The Twins also aren't convinced that Trevor Plouffe, who cracked 24 homers in 2012, is the answer at third base, but it sounds like that situation has taken a backseat to improving the rotation.
Only the Rockies had a worse collective ERA than the 5.40 mark posted by Twins' starters this season. According to Fangraphs, the Twins' rotation was worth a meager 3.1 wins above replacement — easily the worst mark in all of baseball. Diamond was the team's lone bright spot, as the 25-year-old broke out with a 3.54 ERA in 173 innings.
In addition to Greinke, the free agent market includes names like Anibal Sanchez, Brandon McCarthy, Shaun Marcum and Ryan Dempster. Jake Peavy and Dan Haren are also expected to become free agents after their options are declined. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently featured the Twins in his Offseason Outlook series.
In his latest column, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark writes that Astros players have told their friends on other teams that they already think Roger Clemens' arrival in Houston is a done deal. An old friend of Clemens himself also told Stark that he is convinced The Rocket is gearing up for a big league comeback. Here's more from Stark..
- The Dodgers have $181.3MM committed to 17 players for next season, putting them at $3.3MM over the $178MM tax threshold. However, team president Stan Kasten says that he isn't terribly concerned about it. "I don't know. It's not something we've focused on yet," he said. "To us, that's a secondary issue. First, we want to put the best team on the field now and worry about other things later. We're not focusing on that yet." In the long term, Dodgers' brass wants to lean heavily on scouting and player development with a payroll close to what other teams in "similar markets" have, according to Kasten.
- The Red Sox are giving agents and other teams the vibe that they aren't in a rush to spend just because of their new found payroll space. People who have talked with Boston predict that they're more likely to make creative moves this offseason rather than eat an undesirable contract like that of a Joe Mauer or Cliff Lee.
- Speaking of Mauer one exec that checked in on him says trade talk surrounding the catcher lately is "garbage." As for Lee, Stark writes that he is also likely to stay as the Phillies made it clear earlier this year that they have no interest in moving him.
- Stark asked an AL scout and an NL scout about their thoughts on Dan Haren, who will be a free agent after the Angels buy out his final option year. Both said that while there are concerns about his velocity and his all-around stuff, he could be an intriguing one-year pickup at the right price.
- The scouts were also asked about Jeremy Guthrie and neither scout was terribly high on him. The NL scout pointed out his high volume of mistakes over the plate but said that he would install him in the back of a rotation on a one-year deal. The AL scout on the other hand said he would rather take his chances with Daisuke Matsuzaka or Haren.
Joe Mauer has cleared revocable waivers, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The Twins can technically trade Mauer now, but they would need his permission to do so and a deal is highly unlikely.
The Twins, who placed Mauer on waivers earlier this week, would have to complete a trade by Friday for him to be eligible for another club's postseason roster. However, it's more likely the Twins placed Mauer on waivers as a matter of procedure and don't intend to trade him.
Mauer's record-setting eight-year, $184MM extension assures him of a $23MM annual salary through 2018. The 29-year-old has a .309/.403/.425 batting line with as many walks as strikeouts (70) in 522 plate appearances this year.