Ten years ago, the Twins signed star catcher Joe Mauer to the fourth-largest deal in baseball history. MLBTR’s Jeff Todd explains why the contract made tons of sense at the time, in today’s video.
Though negotiations between J.T. Realmuto and the Phillies are currently on hold, the idea of a contract extension between the two sides has been gestating for months. As such, there has already been a lot of speculation about how a Realmuto deal (if one is reached) will shake up the pay scale of catcher contracts. The latest reports indicated that Realmuto was looking for an extension that would pay him more guaranteed money than Buster Posey’s eight-year, $159MM extension with the Giants, which is the second-biggest deal ever given to a catcher.
The largest catcher contract in history? That agreement came exactly ten years ago today, with the Twins making the official announcement a day later. Minnesota had inked Joe Mauer, its star player and local hero, to an eight-year, $184MM extension that covered the 2011-18 season. Not only was it was the largest deal ever signed by a catcher, but it was the fourth-largest contract in baseball history as of March 2010 — only Alex Rodriguez’s two mega-contracts with the Rangers and Yankees, and Derek Jeter’s ten-year, $189MM extension with the Yankees topped Mauer’s $184MM payday.
Could Realmuto and his representatives try to top Mauer’s contract? Even before the coronavirus pandemic added an extra layer of uncertainty over baseball and the world at large, it didn’t seem overly likely, though Realmuto’s camp had some interest in topping Mauer’s $23MM average annual value. Like Mauer at the time of his extension, Realmuto is just a season away from free agency, but Realmuto recently turned 29 years old, while Mauer was only entering his age-27 season at time of his deal.
Plus, there’s also the fact that the Phillies would naturally be gunshy about signing a catcher to that large a contract given how things played out in Minnesota. Unfortunately for both Mauer and the Twins, the fairytale story of the St. Paul native staying with his hometown team and leading them to a World Series title didn’t come to pass, as 2011-18 was a lean period the franchise. After reaching the postseason six times between 2002-10, the Twins only had one playoff appearance and two winning seasons total over the course of Mauer’s extension.
That period also saw Mauer’s production decline, though some dropoff was inevitable given the high level of Mauer’s first seven MLB seasons. From 2004-10, only six players topped Mauer’s 34.2 fWAR, as he developed into one of baseball’s best all-around players. Those seven years saw Mauer hit .327/.407/.481 with 81 home runs over 3578 PA, while amassing a resume that includes four All-Star appearances, four Silver Slugger Awards, three Gold Gloves, three AL batting titles, and four top-eight finishes in AL MVP voting.
Mauer’s best season came directly before his extension, as he was named AL MVP after hitting .365/.444/.587 (leading the American League in all three categories) with 28 homers over 606 plate appearances. As per Fangraphs, Mauer’s 2009 was tied for the fifth-best season ever for a catcher in terms of fWAR, with 8.4.
These numbers add context to the extension and perhaps serve as a bit of a reminder — Joe Mauer was an awesome player in his prime. Just about any big-market team in the game would have happily given Mauer eight years and $184MM given the opportunity to extend him, and the fact that a smaller market club like the Twins also felt comfortable in taking the plunge speaks to Mauer’s value at the time.
Of course, the Twins faced unique pressure to retain Mauer given his roots, as the idea of a literal homegrown superstar leaving for another franchise would have been a particularly tough blow for Minnesota. It should be noted that the Twins’ extension with Mauer was met with near-unanimous praise from both their own fans and the baseball world in general, with many comparing Mauer to the likes of Tony Gwynn, George Brett, or Cal Ripken Jr. as a one-team star who would define a franchise for a generation. ESPN.com’s Buster Olney described the extension as “going to be viewed as a strong development for Major League Baseball, at a time when there are growing concerns about the disparity between teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, and teams that generate less revenue.”
A decade after the fact, that disparity certainly remains despite the large amount of new revenue (from TV contracts and online media) coming into the sport, as it still stands out as notable when a non-major market franchise makes a particularly big splurge to sign a free agent, acquire a big contract in a trade, or ink one of its own stars to an extension. In the latter case, teams have become more and more proactive about extending their players earlier in their careers, well before they get even a year away from free agency as Mauer did.
From 2011-18, Mauer still provided above-average (113 wRC+, 114 OPS+) production by hitting .290/.372/.405 over 4382 plate appearances. The problem was, however, that this production was less impressive coming from a first baseman than it would have been from a catcher. Minnesota shifted Mauer out from behind the plate after the 2013 season due to a number of concussions and knee problems, and Mauer never played catcher again until his very last game, when he caught a single pitch in the ninth inning before being substituted out.
Mauer’s contract made him a particular target for criticism during the Twins’ struggles in the 10’s, which was an unfair burden given that Minnesota’s issues had much more to do with a number of trades and signings during the decade that provided far less return than the Mauer extension. It’s easy to say in hindsight that the Twins erred in keeping Mauer, though that also makes the assumption that the club would have spent that extra $23MM per season on more canny roster upgrades….or that the Twins would have even stretched their payroll to that extent whatsoever.
Ten years later, the Mauer extension is perhaps best seen as a defensible investment that didn’t quite pan out. Given the perfect storm of age, production, and added hometown value that went into the contract, it may yet be a while before another catcher tops it, with Realmuto’s potential new deal with Philadelphia standing as the closest challenger in years.
Before the holidays, the Twins offered Josh Donaldson a four-year, $84MM contract that would have made him the second-highest paid player in team history after Joe Mauer, writes Phil Miller in a profile well worth a read from the Star Tribune. Another interesting tidbit from Miller confirmed that Zack Wheeler had been the Twins’ primary target at the outset of the offseason, shifting only to Donaldson after missing out on Madison Bumgarner and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Donaldson offered a potent bat, of course, but the ability to improve their infield defense at third (and by effect, their pitching) also keyed the Twins on the Bringer of Rain.
Donaldson and his agent Dan Lozano fielded recruitment efforts from all corners of the Minnesota Twins extended universe before committing, from Miguel Sano over video eagerly offering to accommodate Donaldson by changing positions, to a former tennis professional and friend of Donaldson’s who happens to be a Twins fan, to the substantial recruitment effort put in ink by Twins’ ownership when they offered him a four-year, $92MM contract. The fifth year, $16MM team option helped push the deal over the edge, especially once the Twins’ agreed to set the buyout amount at $8MM. If the option is picked up, the deal becomes a five-year, $100MM pact.
Some of the heaviest lifting was done in a meeting between Donaldson, Lozano, Twins’ manager Rocco Baldelli, General Manager Thad Levine and Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey. Baldelli sold Donaldson on clubhouse culture and his plans for deploying Donaldson. The front office put together metrics on their 2019 success and profiled some of the talent on its way to Minneapolis from the minor leagues, establishing a belief that the Twins will remain in contention throughout Donaldson’s tenure.
Misinformation persisted in the media throughout, with Lozano suspected of leaking the $110MM asking price in the hopes of a team with deep pockets (like the Dodgers) matching the number. It worked, in a way, as the Twins realized Donaldson must not have had the offer he wanted, so they set out with renewed enthusiasm (and more money). Obviously, $100MM turned out to be the magic number.
Joe Mauer will officially retire from Major League Baseball, as La Velle E. Neal III and Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune report. Mauer’s future was in doubt throughout the 2018 season, but he has ultimately chosen to call it a career after 15 major league seasons, all of them spent with the Twins.
Born in Minnesota and attending high school in St. Paul, Mauer seemed destined to be chosen first overall by the Twins in the 2001 draft, and endeared himself to fans in Minnesota and beyond throughout his career. After honoring the final year of an eight-year, $184MM contract signed with the club, it seems fitting that Mauer retires with the team that drafted him, playing out the entirety of his career with one organization. Mauer has taken out a full-page newspaper ad to share a heartfelt letter with Twins fans announcing his decision.
Though it was unknown at the time whether he would return for another season, Mauer’s final game at Target Field was a magical one. Starting the game at first base, Mauer took the field alone as he was greeted by his two daughters. In what would turn out to be his final at-bat, Mauer hit a double–sliced into left-center field–that seemed emblematic of his signature hitting style. Then, one final time, Mauer put on his catcher’s gear for the first time in more than five years and received one pitch from Matt Belisle before exiting the game to a rousing ovation from the Minnesota faithful.
Spending the first 10 years of his career behind the plate, Mauer was forced to move to first base after battling concussions. In those seasons, though, Mauer distinguished himself as one the most prolific offensive catchers in recent memory. In 2006, Mauer became the first full-time catcher to win an American League batting title, and his three career batting titles are the most all-time among catchers. Named the American League MVP in 2009, Mauer joined the likes of Thurman Munson, Johnny Bench, and Ivan Rodriguez as one of a few backstops to earn that distinction.
In his career, Mauer appeared in 1,858 games, tallying 2,123 hits and 143 home runs, and posting a slash line of .306/.388/.439, his 55.1 WAR good for third-most in Twins franchise history. Mauer walks away from the game as an interesting case for the Hall of Fame. In his time as a catcher, Mauer posted dominant numbers, especially over a five-year span between 2006 and 2010. His peak alone places him in the company of the game’s all-time great catchers; his career WAR ranks seventh-most among catchers. And while Mauer has generally posted above-average numbers as a first baseman, the injury-prompted transition certainly hurts his case.
Regardless of the outcome of his Hall of Fame candidacy, Mauer’s career is one to look back on fondly. He was universally well-regarded by fans, teammates, coaches, and the media, garnering a reputation as a consummate professional. As expressed in his letter, Mauer plans to use his departure from baseball to spend more time with his family. We at MLBTR congratulate him on a marvelous career and wish him well in his future endeavors.
Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey addressed the traffic incident involving Miguel Sano today (subscription link via Dan Hayes of The Athletic), telling reporters that “what has been most recently reported is what we are aware of around the accident.” Sano is not facing criminal charges after inadvertently backing into a police officer with his truck, as Dominican police officials have issued a statement declaring the incident to be accidental in nature, adding that Sano has been cooperative and offered to pay the medical expenses for the officer, who was a childhood classmate of Sano. That issue aside, Falvey also acknowledged that Sano is “at an important crossroads in his career” following a disastrous 2018 season. As Hayes notes, Sano reported to Spring Training in 2018 out of shape after offseason surgery to insert a titanium rod into his shin last winter prevented him from going through a full offseason workout regimen. The organizational hope will be that a full offseason can help Sano be better positioned for success in 2019. Falvey indicates that the Twins will “put resources around [Sano] and create a certain level of expectations” that’ll be monitored throughout the winter.
More news and notes out of Minneapolis…
- The Twins may not get a decision from Joe Mauer until after the conclusion of the postseason, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “Realistically, free agency doesn’t begin for a period of time here,” said Falvey of Mauer’s impending retirement decision. “We’re still in the window of playoff baseball. I think some time after that would be appropriate time to have any subsequent dialogue.” Still, Falvey said that the Twins have already discussed with Mauer what a potential return could look like, adding that the team made clear to Mauer’s camp that he would “certainly” be welcome back for a 16th season.
- Utility infielder Ehire Adrianza underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder, Levine announced Tuesday (Twitter link via Hayes). Rayner Rico of SportsVenezuela.com first reported that Adrianza would require surgery. The procedure comes with a projected recovery time of three to four months, which would put Adrianza in line to be ready for Spring Training. The 29-year-old Adrianza hit .251/.301/.379 this season in a career-high 366 plate appearances while playing shortstop, second base, third base, left field and first base. The switch-hitter has never contributed much from an offensive standpoint in the Majors, but he’s generally been regarded as a solid defender. He’ll be arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and has a $1.8MM projected salary for 2019, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz.
Though the Twins have offered recently dismissed manager Paul Molitor a new position with a “likely” focus on player development (per The Athletic’s Dan Hayes), USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that Molitor’s preference is to continue coaching or managing at the big league level. The 62-year-old isn’t likely to accept the new role within the Twins organization, per Nightengale, who notes that Molitor is still owed a total of $3.2MM through 2020 as part of last October’s contract extension. There are several other managerial openings around the league — Orioles, Angels, Blue Jays, Reds — for which Molitor could potentially emerge as a candidate if he does indeed rebuff the Twins’ latest offer. He also has experience as a big league hitting coach, and both the D-backs and Pirates have announced they’ll be looking for a new voice in that role.
More from the AL Central…
- The decision to move on from Molitor caught Twins cornerstone Joe Mauer by surprise, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Mauer, like Molitor, is a St. Paul native (the two even attended the same high school — St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham Hall) and spoke about his relationship with the Hall of Famer, who had spent four seasons as the manager in Minnesota. Mauer is mulling retirement after an emotional sendoff from his hometown organization — the only team he’s ever known — and said that Molitor’s dismissal will factor into the calculus. “There are many factors that will go into my decision going forward, and Paul’s absence as our manager is another thing I will be adding to my list of things to consider,” said Mauer. “He’s been an incredible leader and role model and will be greatly missed by all who have played under him.”
- Jose Iglesias bid farewell to the Tigers organization on Instagram today, and Evan Woodbery of MLive.com writes that it’s become increasingly apparent that the Tigers aren’t likely to pursue a reunion. Manager Ron Gardenhire bluntly indicated that the team is “looking for cheaper and inexpensive” as it looks to fill its middle infield voids. A return for Iglesias certainly doesn’t seem impossible — Woodbery notes that trade interest in him has been nonexistent over the past two seasons, which doesn’t bode well for free agency — but it doesn’t sound as if he’ll be an immediate priority for the club. Woodbery adds that Dixon Machado isn’t likely to be in the team’s plans, either; he elected free agency yesterday after being removed from the Tigers’ 40-man roster several months ago.
- The Indians’ final roster spot for the American League Division Series will go to Rajai Davis, manager Terry Francona told reporters today (link via MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian). The decision came down to the veteran Davis versus infielder Erik Gonzalez, but Francona indicated that the potential to utilize Davis as a late-inning baserunning threat ultimately outweighed the desire to have a true backup option at shortstop. The 37-year-old Davis didn’t hit much this season — .224/.278/.281 in 216 plate appearances — but he still managed to swipe 21 bases in a very limited role.
The Yankees and Athletics have named their starters for Wednesday’s American League wild-card game. New York will turn to right-hander Luis Severino, the team confirmed, while Oakland will open the game with reliever Liam Hendriks, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The fact that the A’s are counting on Hendriks in such an important role would’ve been a shock back in July, when they outrighted him, but the 29-year-old reemerged as an effective member of the team’s pitching staff in September. Severino, meanwhile, is in line to start his second straight AL wild-card contest. Last year’s showing was disastrous, as Severino allowed three earned runs and only recorded one out against the Twins before exiting what proved to be a comeback win for the Yankees. In an MLBTR poll over the weekend, the plurality of voters expressed that J.A. Happ should start the game over Severino. The Yankees disagree.
Here’s more on a few other AL clubs:
- Surprisingly, Twins manager Paul Molitor lost his job on Tuesday. More changes appear to be coming to the team’s staff, too, as Jon Heyman of Fancred tweets that bullpen coach Eddie Guardado and third base coach Gene Glynn are “likely” to exit their posts. The club also announced that it has parted with both strength and conditioning coordinator Perry Castellano and strength and conditioning assistant Erik Beiser. As for Molitor, who may stay in the organization, the Twins have offered him a job in player development, Phil Miller of the Star Tribune relays. Molitor’s bench coach, Derek Shelton, is seen as the top in-house candidate to become the Twins’ next manager, Heyman reports.
- Sticking with the Twins, chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said Tuesday that he expects to discuss both an on- and off-field job for franchise icon Joe Mauer for 2019, per Miller. The 35-year-old Mauer may have concluded his playing career this past Sunday, when he had what could go down as a memorable send-off. Mauer’s not under contract heading into 2019, so if the first baseman decides to play again, the Twins will need to re-sign him.
- As of now, it appears first baseman Chris Davis will be back with the Orioles in 2019, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com hears. The soon-to-be 33-year-old owns one of the majors’ worst contracts, so the Orioles’ only chance to get rid of Davis would be by releasing him. It appears the rebuilding club will continue with Davis on its roster, however, even after he posted an all-time worst season in 2018. Formerly an elite slugger, Davis hit a shockingly terrible .168/.243/.296 with 16 home runs in 522 plate appearances. He easily finished last in the majors in fWAR (minus-3.1) and wRC+ (46).
- As of last weekend, offseason thumb surgery looked like a possibility for Rangers outfielder Nomar Mazara. It turns out that he won’t need it, though, Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram tweets. Mazara’s thumb was a problem during the second half of the season, when he spent roughly a month on the disabled list and saw his production decline to a notable extent upon his return. All told, the 23-year-old hit .258/.317/.436 (96 wRC+) with 20 HRs in 536 trips to the plate.
It isn’t yet clear if Joe Mauer will retire or return for the 2019 season, though if Sunday’s game was his last hurrah in the big leagues, it was a special one. Mauer went 1-for-4 in the Twins’ 5-4 victory over the White Sox, though the most memorable moments included Mauer’s two daughters running onto the field to greet him at first base for the national anthem, as well as one final appearance behind the plate. Making his first appearance at catcher since 2013, Mauer donned his old gear to catch the first pitch of the ninth inning before being substituted out of the game to a standing ovation from the Target Field fans. “It’s just been an emotional roller coaster,” Mauer told reporters, including MLB,com’s Jarrid Denney. “I’m not 100 percent sure [about retiring or not], and like I said, I want to make sure I have time just to take a deep breath and really be behind that decision. But I couldn’t have asked for a better last day of the 2018 season, and I’m looking forward to just taking a breath and spending some time with my girls, my family, and we’ll go from there.”
Here’s more from both the AL and NL Central divisions…
- Salvador Perez will undergo surgery this week to repair ligament damage in his thumb, as per an announcement from the Royals (Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star was among those to report the news). Perez said he has been playing through the injury for the last six weeks, and that while he’ll face some rehab time, it won’t keep him from being ready for Spring Training. “Twelve weeks [off], then start to hit,” Perez said of his immediate timeline. While Perez hit 27 homers this season, he contributed only a .235/.274/.439 overall batting line in 544 plate appearances, as his bad thumb and a Grade 2 MCL tear suffered in March likely kept him from operating at close to 100 percent all year.
- Harrison Bader will be the Cardinals’ incumbent center fielder going into 2019, GM Michael Girsch told MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch and other media today. “It’s pretty obvious that he’s the best defensive center fielder we have. He’s hit more than well enough to earn the first shot at it,” Girsch said. Bader posted 3.6 fWAR in his first extended stretch of Major League action, hitting .264/.334/.422 with 12 homers and 15 steals over 427 PA, while also displaying outstanding glovework (+23.3 UZR/150, +11 Defensive Runs Saved) over 607 1/3 innings in center.
- While Bader is in center and Marcell Ozuna has left field spoken for, right field is a less certain area for the Cardinals, despite several options. The Athletic’s Mark Saxon (subscription required) thinks St. Louis could even target Bryce Harper to solidify the position, since the team has the funds to make a big splash in free agency. That would be an eyebrow-raising signing to say the least, in no small part because the Cards have right field options available, though all have question marks. Jose Martinez is a poor defender, Tyler O’Neill is unproven as a Major Leaguer despite a promising start, and Dexter Fowler endured an injury-shortened and mediocre 2018 season. It would likely require trades of both Fowler and Martinez to fit Harper, which would be difficult given Fowler’s struggles and big contract.
- Pirates GM Neal Huntington told reporters (including Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, MLB.com’s Adam Berry, and The Athletic’s Rob Biertempfel) that if Jung Ho Kang returns to the team next season, it will be as a third baseman only. Forty-nine of Kang’s 187 Major League games have come at shortstop, though it doesn’t appear as though the Bucs have any interest in utilizing him even as a backup. As to the question of Kang’s $5.5MM club option, the Pirates “have significant interest in seeing if there’s a middle ground” if the option isn’t exercised, Huntington said, though no contractual decision has yet been made. Injuries and legal issues have kept Kang out of Major League Baseball for almost all of the last two seasons, so it isn’t surprising that the Bucs are seeing if they could bring Kang back at a lower price, given that his market as a free agent could be rather limited.
- Since Kang isn’t being considered for the backup shortstop role if he does return, Jordy Mercer could be a fit to return as a utility infielder. Huntington said the Pirates will “keep the door open” about possibly re-signing Mercer and Josh Harrison, though Mercer seems the better bet of the duo to return, as Mercer can fill the part-time role behind Kevin Newman at short.
Each one of Joe Mauer’s nearly 8,000 career plate appearances has come in a Minnesota Twins uniform. The St. Paul native has said in the past in stating that he can’t see himself playing anywhere other than Minnesota if he’s to continue his career beyond the 2018 campaign — the final season of a franchise-record eight-year, $184MM contract. But while Mauer has previously said he’d like to continue playing, he took a more cautious approach in speaking with La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune yesterday.
“There’s a lot [more] that goes into it than just, ‘Do you want to play?” Mauer replied when asked about continuing his career. “There’s a lot of different dynamics that go into it. I owe it to myself and my family to sit down and think about those things.”
Specifically, the 35-year-old Mauer goes on to cite yet another concussion that he suffered when making a diving attempt at a foul ball behind first base this past May, as well as the expected arrival of his third child this coming November. Mauer was well on his way to becoming one of the the best-hitting catchers in Major League history (and still can be considered as such, albeit over a shorter period than many expected) when a long-running series of concussions forced him out from behind the plate and began a decline in his offensive output.
To his credit, Mauer may have performed a bit better than some would expect since changing positions. He’s posted slightly above-average overall numbers at the plate (.276/.358/.387; 104 OPS+), including a particularly solid .305/.384/.417 slash last season. There’s no dodging the fact, though, that his bat hasn’t produced at anywhere near its once-elite levels. And while he quickly became a strong defensive first baseman, that decline in offense is all the more glaring when considering the manner in which he moved down the defensive spectrum from catcher to first base.
None of that is to suggest that Mauer can’t still provide some value to the 2019 Twins (or, in the event of a dramatic shift in thinking, to another team). He’s turned in 10.3 wins above replacement from 2014-18, per Baseball-Reference (6.3, per Fangraphs). He’s also still a solid source of on-base percentage who rarely strikes out and is known for making opposing pitchers work (4.19 pitches per appearance — 14th-best in the Majors). That said, if he were to return for a 16th big league season, it would assuredly be at a significantly reduced rate.
As for whether the Twins’ front office would want him back, both chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine expressed to Neal that they’re open to bringing the former No. 1 overall pick back in 2019.
“If he came with us with the question you posed, ‘I’d like to play another season, what does that look like?’ I think we’re rolling up our sleeves and having a conversation with him,” said Levine. Falvey added that Mauer has “earned the right to have that conversation at his own pace” and that the team “fully supports” Mauer’s preference to make that an offseason decision rather than one they’ll discuss in September.
In the event that Mauer does decide to hang things up, the Twins will have some internal options to replace him. Logan Morrison’s $8MM mutual option will presumably be bought out following an injury-ruined season, but Tyler Austin has performed reasonably well since being traded over from the Yankees (.243/.313/.541 through 83 PAs). Miguel Sano has experience at first base and is likely better suited in the long run playing there than at third base. The free-agent market offers some potential platoon partners for Austin (e.g. Matt Adams), and the trade market, too, will present numerous options.
All of that cart-before-horse talk should be put on hold, however, as Mauer’s ultimate decision will undoubtedly impact the manner in which Falvey, Levine and the rest of the front office go about constructing a 2019 roster they hope can atone for a disappointing 2018 campaign in Minneapolis.
Dodgers pending free agent Manny Machado has made it known he prefers shortstop, but the former Baltimore third baseman would return to the hot corner “for the right team,” Jon Heyman of Fancred writes. A willingness to play third certainly won’t hurt Machado on the open market, where he’s expected to sign one of the richest contracts ever, as it could encourage more teams to get involved in the bidding. Machado prefers to sign with the Yankees, Heyman relays, which jibes with a previous report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The Yankees already have an excellent shortstop in Didi Gregorius and a big-hitting rookie third basemen in Miguel Andujar, but their presences didn’t prevent the team from pursuing Machado at this year’s non-waiver trade deadline. Gregorius is only under contract for another year, moreover, while Machado is a much better defender at third than Andujar. Speculatively, if the Yankees sign Machado and extend Gregorius, perhaps they’d move Andujar to first base (where they haven’t gotten much production this year) or use him as trade bait to acquire pitching.
More rumblings from Heyman…
- The Indians were the most aggressive pursuers of Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper at the non-waiver trade deadline in July, according to Heyman. However, the Indians were unwilling to trade high-end pitching prospect Triston McKenzie for Harper – who’ll be a free agent at season’s end – and general manager Mike Rizzo didn’t want to deal Harper anyhow. Expectations are that the Rizzo-led Nats will do their best to re-sign Harper, Heyman suggests.
- There isn’t much optimism around baseball that the Marlins will be able to extend star catcher J.T. Realmuto, reports Heyman, who writes that he “apparently remains a target” of the NL East rival Braves. Atlanta extended catcher Tyler Flowers earlier this week, but only for a guaranteed $6MM over two years. Realmuto is also controllable for the next two seasons, and given that the Marlins won’t contend during that span, it seems like a strong bet that they’ll trade the 27-year-old if they’re unable to extend him.
- Twins icon and pending free agent Joe Mauer is uninterested in playing elsewhere, per Heyman, who adds that it’s believed Minnesota would welcome the first baseman back in 2019. The question is whether the St. Paul native will choose to play next year, which would be his age-36 season. Mauer’s now in the final weeks of the franchise-record eight-year, $184MM extension he signed as a superstar catcher in 2010. The deal hasn’t quite worked out as hoped, though, thanks in part to injuries and a decline in production. Mauer has posted league-average offensive numbers over 444 PAs this year, with a .278/.350/.379 line (99 wRC+).
- The Brewers finished second to the NL Central rival Cardinals in the race to sign then-free agent Miles Mikolas last winter, Heyman reports. A former Ranger and Padre, Mikolas returned stateside after a couple seasons in Japan, joining the Cardinals on a two-year, $15.5MM guarantee. That contract has been a steal for St. Louis, which has seen the 30-year-old Mikolas turn in 167 innings of 2.96 ERA/3.43 FIP ball this season.