As a Yankee-fan, is it my Baseball God-given right to lust after every good player who could one day maybe potentially hit free agency. After all, from Reggie to A-Rod from Giambi and Mussina to CC and Teixeira and Burnett and all of the other high-priced free agents in between, when the Yankees want someone, they get him for money is no option. The Onoin, of all news sources, said to best.
As I look ahead to the next few years and glance at the potential free agents, one name leaps out at me as, to borrow a phrase, the perfect fit for the New York Yankees. The odds of his landing in New York are slim, but if he does, it will be on the heels of one of the most lucrative contracts in baseball history.
His name, of course, is Joe Mauer. You may know him as the reigning American League MVP. Or perhaps you know him as a three-time batting champion. Or maybe as a two-time Gold Glove winner and three-time All Star. Perhaps you know him as a player who will potentially hit free agency after 2010, after his age 27 season and just in time for some team to cash in on his peak years.
And what a peak it will be. Already, Mauer, a few weeks younger than I, has a batting line to admire. He has hit .327/.408/.483 in his young career, and after launching just 44 home runs over his first 561 games, he hit 28 in 138 this year. Against the Yanks in the ALDS this October, he went 5 for 12 with one — or two, if you ask a non-blind umpire — extra-base hits. Pressure? What pressure?
But Mauer is Minnesota’s man through and through. He’s proof that small market teams can develop their own young talent and compete with it. Now, the Twins, long loath to spend money, are going to be tested. Will they re-up with Mauer or will Joe head for greener pastures and the big, bad lights of the AL East?
According to recent reports, we may actually find out sooner rather than later if Mauer will be the Next Big Bidding War. Based on news published late last night, Mauer wants an extension by the start of Spring Training or else he will file for free agency after the 2010 season. Part of me — the baseball fan — wants to see Mauer stay in Minnesota because otherwise what does that say about the economics of the game? The other part of me — the Yankee fan — knows exactly where he wants Joe Mauer.
For the Yankees, the timing couldn’t be better. Jorge Posada is playing out the waning days of a potential Hall of Fame career behind the plate, but the growing sentiment is that he is not either physically capable or good enough to catch more than 100 games. Furthermore, he has just two more season left on his contract, and while the Yankees hope that Jesus Montero will be both good enough and ready to take over in 2012, Joe Mauer is, well, in another baseball universe.
Furthermore, Mauer and Montero can complement each other. Mauer has caught 139 games once but otherwise hasn’t topped 120 in a single season. He — similar to Montero — is tall and has suffered through some physical ailments. Stick them both behind the dish, and it would be Christmas during the regular season for Yankee fans.
Of course, this is probably just the semi-delusional dream of a star-struck Yankee fan who wants everything but can’t always get it. Yet, as Mauer and the Twins head to the table, a part of me will definitely be rooting against a contract extension.