When in comes to the top paid MLB players, you start off the list with Alex Rodriguez, four outfielders, two more infielders, and three starting pitchers. What is the only position not in the top ten? The catcher. There are only three cacthers in the top 100. They are Jorge Posada, number 37, Joe Mauer, number 73, and Ramon Hernandez, number 98. Posada, is the highest paid catcher at $13.1 million, nearly one third of his teammate Alex Rodriguez. That is an extremely low number considering the catchers manage the field and call the pitches. Good, veteran catchers help to develop young pitchers and are the glue for their clubhouse.
Joe Mauer will hit free agency next winter, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension with the Twins before hand. One interesting note is that his agent is Ron Shapiro who also was the agent for Cal Ripken Jr., Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson, and Kirby Puckett, all of whom played their whole career in one city. But, again, assuming he does hit the market in the 2010-11 winter, he will easily command the biggest contract out of the group, bigger than Derrek Lee, Derek Jeter, Aramis Ramirez, Josh Beckett, Roy Halladay, and Mariano Rivera.
Joe Mauer will be one of the three finalist for the MVP along with Yankees Derek Jeter and Mark Teixera. And all of this, even after missing the first month of the year. He flirted with hitting .400 for the first half of the year and now hits a lowly .367. He also has become a great power hitter now, more than doubling his previous career high in homers from 13 to 28. He has also set career highs in RBIs and OPS this year, with a week still to go.
Mauer was the number one overall pick in the 2001 MLB draft straight out of high school by his hometown Minnesota Twins, who were heavily criticized by the media for passive over the highly touted, more expensive fire baller out of USC, Mark Prior. Obviously, Mauer has had a way better pro career than Prior, and has helped the Twins prove the rest of Major League Baseball wrong as Mauer has become a top ten player in the league. But how much is this superstar worth?
If you take a look a contracts of similar players, you are looking at a catcher like Jorge Posada. Posada’s last contract was for $52 million over 4 years. In that season, Posada’s OPS was . 068 lower, he had eight less homers, had two more errors, three less RBI, two less steals, and way less leadership. Add on the fact that Posada was 10 years older than Mauer is now, and Mauer will easily make more than Posada’s $13 million.
Three different position players with comparable stats are Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, and Mark Teixeira. Ramirez, who is 25, avoided arbitration with the Marlins by signing a six year/$70 million contract. Ramirez has .087 lower OPS, one more homer, 35 less strikeouts, .033 lower fielding percentage, 12 less RBI, 19 more doubles, 47 more steals; all in 21 more games. At age 24, Cabrera signed with the Tigers for $153.3 million over eight years. The year before Cabrera signed the contract, he had a .070 lower OPS, 6 more homers, 26 more RBI, 9 more doubles, 2 less steals, 67 more strike outs, .025 lower fielding percentage, in 24 more games. In the year previous to signing his $180 million/8 year contract, Teixeira had a .069 lower OPS, 5 more homers, 26 more RBI, ten more runs, two less steals, 31 more strikeouts, in 21 more games.
Because of Joe Mauer’s leadership position on his team, he deserves more than the nearly $12 million Ramirez makes and over $19 million Cabrera makes. He has taken the Twins young pitching staff and has turned them into All-Stars. Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Anthony Swarzak are all starters under the age of 27 and have led the Twins pitching staff. The Twins’ lone veteran starter is Carl Pavano, who was acquired in early August.
Mauer is also a great clubhouse guy, and you can never measure the impact of a someone like that. They keep all the other players loose and keeps them together. Players like that are hard to find.
Joe Mauer is due for a huge pay raise in next off-season. That may come from a big market team like the Yankees, Red Sox, or Mets. It may also come from his hometown Twins. Nearly every team will be in the bidding for Mr. Mauer’s services except teams with very good young catchers; the Braves, Orioles, Dodgers, and Giants. In the end, Mauer will probably get a contract from a big market team for around $20 million per year. I predict he will end up with the Mets for a 10 year/$215 million contract, who certainly have the money and need a young catcher. He may or may not end up as a catcher, but he will certainly still be one of the top five players int he league.