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Mauer vs. A-Rod: Timing is Everything


September 16, 2012; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer (7) hits a home run during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

When the Yankees were in talks with Alex Rodriguez to make him the highest paid baseball player of all time (10-year, $275 million), those conversations made sense, considering the Yankees bankroll. However, when the Minnesota Twins’ best player, Joe Mauer, was up for a contract extension, much of the media speculated the Twins could not afford Mauer’s talents. Mauer was believed to test the free market and, presumably, end up wearing the Yankee pinstripes or mash doubles off “The Green Monster” in Boston for the Red Sox. Despite the Twins being a small market team, they were able to tie up Mauer for an 8-year, $184 million contract extension, thanks in large part to Target Field being built which resulted in loads of added revenues. The 8-year deal for Mauer’s services was a jubilant time for the organization as well as the fans, of whom have never before had a chance to see their favorite players have major, extended contracts.

The difference between the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins offering such large contracts to individual players is staggering. Everyone expected the Rodriguez deal to be a great fit in New York because of their large payroll and eccentric-spending billionaire, George Steinbrenner. Most people involved in the business end of baseball saw the benefits of acquiring such a skilled player and media-friendly individual in Rodriguez as well, which only added to his profitability for the Yankees.

The Twins, however, were criticized for offering Mauer such a large contract, being told how they will “bankrupt the team”, or, they “won’t be able to afford players to buy around him”, and even, “he won’t last physically throughout the contract, only giving millions to a non-home run hitting first baseman in the future”. All of those statements were concerns of mine as well, but look at how the two players have performed chronologically since signing their major contracts:

  1. 2008 (age 33)  – 6.3 (138 games)
  2. 2009 (age 34) – 4.4 (124 games)
  3. 2010 (age 35) – 3.8 (137 games)
  4. 2011 (age 36) – 4.2 (99 games)
  5. 2012 (age 37) – 2.2 (122 games)
  • Joe Mauer WAR rating (since 2010; extension began in 2011):
  1. 2010 (age 27) – 5.5 (137 games)
  2. 2011 (age 28) – 1.5 (82 games)
  3. 2012 (age 29) – 5.0 (147 games)

Both players in the last few seasons have missed some serious game time because of injuries, but the numbers, more importantly the age, never lie.

Sep 18, 2011; Toronto, ON, Canada; New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (13) loses his bat while swinging during the 1st inning against the Toronto Blue Jays of a game at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Luc Leclerc-US PRESSWIRE

Rodriguez’s first season under this new contract was at the age of 33, which, if he plays throughout the contract, means he will be a Yankee until he is 43 years old. Yes, 43 years old. There are not too many 43-year-olds that have had much success in the Major Leagues, especially ones that are locked in to earn $20 million or more every season leading up to the last year of the contract. At age 37, no one can think that Rodriguez is worth the copious amounts of money the Yankees are dishing to him every season to play slightly above average baseball in the regular season and, most recently, atrocious on the postseason. The numbers do not add up. Sure, Rodriguez helped the Yankees win one World Series in 2009, but he was not the Most Valuable Player that year in the regular season or the playoffs, and do you not pay someone more money than anyone else in all of baseball to be the best player on the field when it matters most? With five years remaining in his contract, Rodriguez better sort himself out quick if he does not plan on being shipped to obscurity for under performing.

As for Mauer, his first season after signing his extension was at age 27. If  he completes his contract with the Twins then he will be playing his last season for them at the age of 35. The likelihood of a 35-year-old ball player having success in the Majors is quite higher than at 43 (see, Alex Rodriguez). Mauer has not helped the Twins win a World Series yet, and his numbers may not be as glamorous as others earning his type of salary, but his 2012 season was much improved statistically compared to his last, especially considering that he played in a career high 147 games. Based off his batting championship, silver slugger and gold glove seasons, as well as his MVP season, there is no reason, at age 30 next year, he will not be capable of producing those numbers moving forward.

The difference between the Minnesota Twins’ and the New York Yankees’ ideology is tremendous , but perhaps what is most over-looked is the timing of when they each signed the “Big Contract” to an All-Star/MVP-type player. The Yankees signed Rodriguez at age 33 and the Twins signed Mauer at age 27. Rodriguez’s first season under the 10-year contract was at the down slope of his peak and Mauer was signed towards the beginning of his prime. So, you tell me which team signed the right “Big Contract” at the right time.