When FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported Wednesday that the Twins placed Joe Mauer on trade waivers, everyone immediately looked in the Red Sox’ direction. They’re the guys with the extra cash flow, and everyone wants to know how they’re going to spend their newfound riches.
But while the Red Sox could realistically afford (financially) to make any move now that they’ve gotten rid of the hefty contracts of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, it doesn’t mean an all-out shopping spree is in order. And reckless spending shouldn’t be on the docket, especially when it comes to Mauer.
Aggressive spending is what forced the Red Sox into the position they were in until last weekend’s blockbuster. The Sox were seemingly up to their eyeballs in immovable debt, and they were limited in what they could do to improve going forward because they were handcuffed. Boston no longer faces those problems, though, and general manager Ben Cherington would be wise to make good on his promise to become more disciplined when it comes to spending.
The Red Sox were believed to have interest in Mauer in the past, and how could you not? We’re talking about a five-time All-Star, a three-time batting champion, a three-time Gold Glove winner and, by all accounts, a team-first guy. You’d be hard-pressed to find a GM who wouldn’t want Mauer serving as his backstop. The problem, however, lies in the financial particulars, which should be too rich for even the suddenly loaded Red Sox’ blood.
Mauer is slated to make roughly $142.5 million over the next six seasons under his current contract. That’s more than the six years and $127 million Gonzalez is owed on his current deal, and the production Boston would be receiving is hardly worth that type of investment. Make no mistake, there’s a lot to love about Mauer’s game, but taking on his entire contract would soon prove to be a move of lust.
Gonzalez’s contract isn’t a particularly bad one. His salary is pretty much on par with his production and talent level, and moving him was really just a facilitator — albeit a major one — for moving Crawford and Beckett. But the one major knock on Gonzalez, aside from any questions about his leadership, was his apparent power outage, and Mauer would do nothing to fix that problem.
Aside from his 28-home run, 96-RBI outburst during his 2009 MVP campaign, Mauer has never featured much power. Granted, a move to pitcher-friendly Target Field did nothing to help his cause, but in the name of calling a spade a spade, Mauer is not your prototypical middle-of-the-order bat. Yet, that’s what the Red Sox need in return if they’re going to shell out Gonzalez-like money for someone other than a starting pitcher.
Mauer will hit over .300 and get on base at an awesome .400 clip, but as we saw with Gonzalez, that can only get you so far in this market. Mauer would immediately face scrutiny the second he endured any kind of slump. Just ask Gonzalez, who despite his best offensive performances, came under the gun for not producing the home run totals we were accustomed to seeing while he was in San Diego.
Perhaps it was a bit unfair to criticize Gonzalez’s dwindling power, considering he still drove in runs and played Gold Glove-caliber first base, but the Sox would need to acquire a key lineup cog if they were to spend big. Mauer is an exceptional talent, but his lack of power and evolving role as a catcher/first baseman/DH — as opposed to an everyday catcher — hurts his value. Plus, if the Red Sox have faith in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and/or Ryan Lavarnway, acquiring Mauer would prove to be extraneous for at least the time being.
When it comes to Mauer, the average and OBP will be there now, but they might not be a few years down the road. And then what? The Red Sox would be looking at a more expensive, less powerful Gonzalez without the Gold Glove track record as a first baseman, and it’s safe to assume a full-time position shift will someday be in the cards for Mauer.
FOX Sports’ Jon Heyman reported that the Sox will not make a claim for Mauer. Perhaps the team never even entertains the idea of pursuing him in the offseason, thus rendering this discussion moot. But given Mauer’s stature and the suddenly wild August we’re having, all things are at least worth pondering.
It might not be long before the Red Sox push their chips back in the middle. They should just make sure it’s with a different hand.
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