Mauer's hesitancy to accept a record-setting contract offer from his hometown team has made his signing less than a sure thing and raised this previously unthinkable question:This is all up to Mauer. He has said that he wants to know that the Twins will do everything they can to build a winner, and if he feels they have I believe that's where he'll stay. If not, he will probably be playing somewhere else next year. From a distant observer's point of view, I think the Twins have done a good job at remaining competitive, they did win the AL Central last year, but I also believe that Minnesota isn't Mauer's best chance for a ring. That would be the Yankees or Red Sox, and I'm sure he realizes that too.
"Won't the Twins have to trade him if he refuses their best offer?"
A deal between the All-Star catcher and the Twins is still more likely than not, and at any moment Mauer's agent, Ron Shapiro, could call the team and make it happen, prompting a combination press conference/Minnesota Mardi Gras.
But a combination of modern baseball logic and Twins history suggests that if the Twins' decision-makers can't sign Mauer, they will be obligated to trade him.
The Twins and Shapiro have kept the details of their negotiations remarkably quiet, but my sense, after talking with a variety of people, is that the team has offered more than $20 million a year. If Shapiro is intent on pushing Mauer to $25 million or more a year, Mauer might find himself on the Johan Santana Shuttle out of town....
If he's spurning amounts the Twins feel are exorbitant, the team could discern that Mauer is intent on playing in New York or Boston. Those might be the only two baseball cities where a team other than the Twins would be willing to pay more than $20 million a year for a catcher with a history of leg and back injuries.
From a Yankees standpoint there are several issues here. First, if he hits the trade market how acquiring him work with Jorge Posada playing everyday. Also, the cost would be ridiculous. Start with Jesus Montero, and go from there.
If he makes it all the way to the free agent market, there are other issues. His injury history, the money it would cost to sign him, and Jesus Montero specifically. Injuries are always a concern when talking about any long-term deal, especially one that's worth more than $20 million a year and you're giving it to a catcher. Then there's the Montero factor. If he can show the Yankees enough of an improvement behind the plate their current need for a catcher to eventually replace Posada will be wiped out completely.
Still, Mauer is as good as it gets. Adding him to a team with as much firepower as the Yankees is never a bad thing. Also, the last thing the Yankees want to see is Mauer head to Boston where he can punish the them 18 times a year. If Mauer becomes available via trade it will be tough for the Yankees to at least test the waters, even with Posada. If he hits the free agent market it will be even harder to stay away.
I've said many times that I would love to see Mauer in pinstripes, but at the same time the best scenario for the Yankees would probably be that Montero improves to the point where he can catch at the major league level and Mauer remains in Minnesota.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)