Link Dump: Mauer, Damon, Prospects

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Mauer on Montero

While we discussed the merits of using Jesus Montero as the backup catcher this morning, Joe Brescia of The Times was busy talking to Joe Mauer about the Yankees’ uber-prospect and the perils of being a big catcher. “Too big. Not quick enough. I heard everything under the sun,” said Mauer, who stands 6-foot-5, two inches taller than Montero. “My advice to him is try and learn as much as you can. He’s lucky he has Jorge Posada, a pretty good catcher to learn from. And he has Russell Martin there now, too, another good one to help him. Those two guys that have been around the block. He should follow those guys around and learn as much as he can.”

The former AL MVP also emphasized the importance of getting to “know your customers,” meaning the pitching staff. “Know your staff and the little things that they respond to. You have to learn the pitchers and what they are capable of doing and not doing. Try to put your pitchers in the best situations they can to succeed.”

The Pitch to Damon

Before he signed on with the Rays, we heard that the Yankees had expressed some interest in bringing Johnny Damon back to the Bronx, presumably as a part-time outfielder and part-time designated hitter. RAB fave Ken Davidoff spoke to Johnny recently, who informed him that the Yankees pitched the idea of using him twice a week in the outfield and once a week at DH. Damon just wasn’t ready to commit to being a glorified bench player yet, so to Tampa he went.

The Yanks still would have needed a right-handed power bat for the bench if they had signed Damon, but not necessarily an outfielder. If Johnny had agreed to that arrangement, perhaps it would have opened the door for Montero to break camp with the team even more. Who knows.

BA’s Top 150 Prospects & More

The crew at Baseball America published their annual list of the top 100 prospects in the game last week, and a whopping six Yankees prospects made the cut. But you knew that already. What you may not know is how the list is compiled, which is what Jim Callis explained in this week’s Ask BA. Their six editors each put together a personal top 150 prospects list, then they mash ’em all together in a spreadsheet and talk out the individual rankings. In addition to the guys that cracked the top 100, three other Yankees farmhands appeared in the personal top 150’s: Slade Heathcott (two ballots, peaking at number 133), Hector Noesi (4, 92), and Eduardo Nunez (4, 109).

Within the same piece, Callis says the Yankees have the best group of catching prospects in baseball, and that’s even if Montero ends up having to move off the position. That’s some hefty praise right there.

Why the Yanks won’t sign Joe Mauer

At a position typically short on heavy hitters, Joe Mauer stands out. Over the past three seasons he has posted a .392 wOBA, the best among catchers. Jorge Posada comes pretty close with a .391 mark, but Mauer has about 500 more plate appearances over that span. Behind them, the list gets a bit thin. Only five catchers have produced over 10 WAR from 2007 through 2009 — Brian McCann, Russell Martin, and Victor Martinez in addition to Mauer and Posada. When a team finds a heavy hitting catcher, it is in their best interest to hold on tightly.

Photo credit: Kevin P. Casey/AP

This is why I still believe that the Twins will work out an extension with Mauer. There’s just too much at stake for the team. If Mauer leaves, then what? They’ve already locked up the complementary talent, Denard Span for the next five years, Justin Morneau for the next four, and even Michael Cuddyer for the next two. What is the complementary talent, though, without the star? Furthermore, what better use for revenue generated from their new stadium? It seems all signs point to an extension.

Of course, just because the signs point one way doesn’t mean it will happen. Anything can still happen at this point, and that includes Mauer hitting the free agent market this winter. If that’s the case he’ll command more than $100 million, and possibly get closer to $200 million. With numbers that large, it’s clear that the big market teams will play the largest role in the bidding. Some are already connecting the two parties.

If Mauer does hit the free agent market, though, I don’t expect the Yankees to outbid the Red Sox for him. They’ll make a play, of course, but I don’t expect them to use their resources that way. Yes, Mauer is one of the most valuable players in the game, but the Yankees have spent the past three or so years filing their farm system with catchers. After all that, why go and use an enormous portion of your resources to sign one in free agency?

As it stands, the Yankees have $144 million locked into the 2011 payroll before they work out contracts for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. They’ll also have arbitration cases for Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. In other words, they could be near $185 million for just 13 players — and that doesn’t include Javy Vazquez or Andy Pettitte. At that point they’d probably need at least one starting pitcher. Other needs could crop up during the season, including left field.

Yet at catcher the Yankees would have Jorge Posada under contract for one more season. They’d also have Jesus Montero with a year of AAA under his belt, and Austin Romine with a season of AA — and possibly with some AAA experience. Below them they feature a number of low-level catchers, too, including J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez. Signing Mauer to a six- or seven-year deal would render these developing players essentially useless to the organization. Wouldn’t that render a waste the past few years of focus on catcher?

None of this downplays the immediate impact Mauer would have on the Yankees. As the second best catcher over the past three years heads into his sunset years, he would be replaced by the best. It would allow the Yankees to trade Montero for a pitcher, filling one of the rotation vacancies. It would also give them more time to let the other catchers develop, perhaps also using them as trade bait — or even as a oft-used backup in order to help limit Mauer’s workload. For all these reasons, I’d never rule out the Yankees signing Mauer.

Rather than adding another nine-figure contract to the ledger, though, I think the Yankees will focus on pitching and left field, once again, next winter. They’ve put a lot into developing a next generation crop of catchers, so why would they make such an enormous outlay to sign one in free agency, when players are at their most expensive? Why not use that money to sign a player at a thinner position? That’s what I think the Yankees will do. I’d love to see Mauer in pinstripes, but given the current structure of the organization it appears their money would be better spent elsewhere.

Report: Mauer agrees to 10-year extension (UPDATE: No he didn’t)

Update (4:31pm): Buster Olney is shooting the report down now. So much for that.

4:20pm: First it was Felix Hernandez, and now another drool-worthy future free agent target is off the market. Via MLBTR, AL MVP Joe Mauer has agreed to a 10-year contract extension with the Twins, locking him up until the ripe old age of 37. No word on the money yet, but I would think it’s over $200M. Good for him, good for the Twins, good for baseball, bad for the Yanks.

Dreaming of Joe

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.

Mauer: I’m ‘not feeling great’

Joe Mauer is one of the major reasons why people are uncertain about Jesus Montero‘s future behind the plate. At 6’5″, Mauer is one of the tallest catchers in the history of the game, and it shows. He caught only 109 games this year, and his body suffers through the wear and tear of the season rather poorly. Today, he told reporters that he is hurting. Apparently, a sore hip flexor is why he did not score from second on Michael Cuddyer’s single in the 11th inning last night. As David Pinto noted, the Twins could go with Jose Morales behind the plate tomorrow and bench Jason Kubel while Mauer DHs. Although I don’t wish to see any opponent get injured, a Joe Mauer at less than 100 percent certainly benefits the Yanks.

I dream of Mauer

Over the weekend, a few astute readers sent us e-mails about this, and iYankees touched upon it on Saturday: ESPN’s Peter Gammons is dreaming about a bidding between the Yankees and the Red Sox for the service of Joe Mauer.

He writes:

Memo to Twins CEO Jim Pohlad: Get Joe Mauer’s contract extension completed, because he will be the next great Yankees-Red Sox war if he hits the free-agent market in November 2010.

If the Twins don’t wrap up Mauer, he’ll be the most sought-after free agent since Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia. By the end of 2010, the Yanks will be able to shift Posada from behind the dish, and Mauer would be a perfect fit. Meanwhile, the Sox, who have extended something of a two-year deal to Jason Varitek. That would come due after 2010 as well.

If Mauer hits the market — and that is a huge if right now — he would stand to make a killing. It’s feasible that half of the teams in baseball could get in on Mauer. I’d love to see Mauer in New York. Who wouldn’t?