October 13, 2009

Off-Season Blueprint: Step One

The Minnesota Twins season ended after one of the best comebacks anyone could have ever imagined. But poor plays and bad calls consumed their time in the playoffs and unfortunately were knocked out by the New York Yankees after just three games.

The Twins played great down the stretch when it mattered. And I know some argue that the Tigers just merely blew it (making the argument that they blew it more than we won it), but really it's a rhetorical question and in the end it doesn't matter. Both can be right. And although many are still mourning the early playoff exit, which is obviously understandable, they should also be prepared for what should be the most exciting next 12 months in Twins history.

Although we've all been disappointed in the lack of off-season activity before (cough, last year), all signs point to the Twins being fairly active this off-season (like we haven't heard that before). I advise many to take that with a grain of salt to save what could be a big disappointment, but if this July and August were any precursor to what this off-season could hold, then we could all be pleasantly surprised.

First and foremost, the most pressing issue is obviously getting Joe Mauer re-signed. The Twins may have been interested in re-signing him last off-season but they took the chance on his back issues lowering his value which we all know didn't happen. Although we all dream that he'll sign for a "hometown discount" because he's gone on record to say that he's not really interested in being the highest paid guy, we all need to also understand that he could merely be saying that from a PR stand point and could still very well put himself out of the Twins' price range.

Regardless of which way you look at it, I don't think anyone should feel at all comfortable about the future of Mauer's in Minnesota until he's signed. I personally don't believe he'll leave and I think a deal will get done, but I also thought the same would be true of both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana. Completely understanding that those two don't draw the same kind of ties Mauer does to Minnesota, they both went on record several times stating their desire to stay in Minnesota and for one reason or another; whether it be the front office's or the player's fault, both aren't with the Twins anymore because of money. Needless to say, I sadly can't say I'd be completely surprised if Mauer wasn't playing in Minnesota in 2011. But with that said, I also understand that the Twins understand Mauer's value and with respect to both Santana and Hunter, I think we can all agree that Mauer is a better player than either of them. Which in part is why I do feel optimistic about a deal getting done. Well... that... and the fact that I'm sure that 99% of their fan base will participate in some kind of boycott.

So what could it take? Obviously that's a question everyone wishes they could answer and I'm sure not even Mauer knows at this point. Personally, I believe it'll be something around 8-years and $165 million. In comparison, that would be the fourth largest contract in baseball history. Is that a good deal (hypothetically, obviously)? It's safe to say that he could probably get more than that on the free agent market which would obviously mean he's taking a "discount" (if you want to call $165 million a discount). So from that aspect, yes. And with some speculation of a 2010 payroll somewhere between $90 and $100 million, it looks as though the Twins will be able to afford him at this price (or even slightly more than the $165 million). But how much more might the Twins be willing to go?

If Mauer all of a sudden wakes up one morning and wants to Dream Like New York (like Tyrone Wells) and demands a contract somewhere along the lines of 8-years and $200 million, I can't say I see the Twins re-signing him. Obviously that's a bit more than my proposed deal, but that invisible 'line' that separates the two isn't really far off from either one.

Regardless if you agree with me or not regarding dollar amounts, the point of all this is that nothing else can - or should, for that matter - be decided until Mauer is extended. Last month, I wrote:
...it's a pretty safe assumption that nothing will get done until number seven is signed, and while I hope it gets done early, I'm unfortunately expecting it to drag on throughout the off-season which could give the front office plenty of excuses why they're not more aggressive on the market.
And sadly, I know that this is still a big probability.


Since we're on the subject of playing GM, I think this is the right time to tell everyone of an awesome product. The Twins Centric group of writers have just released an eBook called the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook. The writers of the book are fellow Twins bloggers Seth Stohs (of Seth Speaks), Parker Hageman (of Over the Baggy), John Bonnes (the Twins Geek) and Nick Nelson (of Nick's Twins Blog), so obviously you already know you're getting great content. The four of them give you an overwhelming amount of information over 137 pages in which they put you in the seat of the Twins' GM. They give you a look at potential trade targets, free agents and other hot topics that concern the Twins. It's a great way to support the Twins blogosphere and I know you won't be disappointed.

And if you get over there quick, they're giving a free preview of 1/3 of the book.