Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Why the Joe Mauer Deal Makes $ense

When I first learned that Joe Mauer was up for free agency in 2010, I assumed that he'd likely go for a mega-contract with the Yankees (or perhaps some other big market team). Either that or he'd give a home town discount to stay with the Twins.

So imagine my surprise when I read that Mauer had signed the fourth richest contract in MLB history, an 8-year deal worth $184 million dollars, with the Twins. I was absolutely stunned, not just that the Twins did it, but that they were even able to do it. I didn't think they had the money. But of course, my next thought was, "Aren't the Twins getting away from what has made them so successful through the years as a small market team?"

Joe Mauer is undoubtedly a great talent, evidenced by his 2 gold gloves and 3 batting crowns in just 5 MLB seasons. But he's a catcher, and they tend to break down sooner than other positions. Plus Mauer has already had injury problems, including just last year. To me, it seemed crazy for the small market Twins to invest so heavily in a catcher with a history for nagging injuries.

But I've had some more time to consider this deal, and I've done a 180. Not from a baseball standpoint, but from a business perspective. In Joe Mauer, the Minnesota Twins have landed marketing gold. He's more than just a local hero who will fill their new stadium--which I'm sure the organization feels much pressure to fill--he's also become a national icon.

I don't know the details of the Twins' finances or how they figure Mauer's value to their organization. But my hunch is that they've done the math and concluded that, from a marketing standpoint, he's a good bet to be worth more than $184 million.


Westy said...

Also note, he's less injury prone than I believe all but 1 catcher over the last 3 years.

Greg said...

I'm guessing A.J. Pierzynski is that 1 catcher whose been more durable.

In any case, if Mauer produces the next 5 years the way he has the past 5, then I think the Twins will have gotten what they wanted out of the deal. (Provided that Mauer doesn't go Ben Roethlisberger on us.)

Also, I am glad to see that at least once in a while a small market team can keep their superstar. Let's hope it works out better for Minnesota than it did for Cincy with Griffey Jr.--and by the way, I think it will because Minnesota has already embraced Mauer the person. (When Griffey didn't produce right away for the Reds, many of the fans turned on him quickly. It was kinda sad, especially considering that one of those seasons where he struggled he was getting death threats that he had to keep secret from the public so the FBI could investigate it properly.)

Pauly said...

too bad the Twins will be bankrupt in 4 years. Outdoor stadium? huh? Im am shocked as well that they spent the money on Mauer, but in 4 years, they won't be able to pay him...just watch.

This is like the Marlins signing ARod or something. Great move on paper until the whole team collapses.

Chairman said...

Greg - you seem to have posted this one day early.

Greg said...

It's interesting to think back on when A-Rod signed with Texas. At the time the Texas owner (Tom Hicks) eagerly signed A-Rod to the biggest MLB contract ever (I believe $250 million over 10 years) because he figured that not only was A-Rod the best player in the game, he would be a marketing machine and enhance the Rangers' branding nationwide.

But then something unexpected happened. (Although it probably should have been expected.) When a young A-Rod inked the richest deal ever, baseball fans across the country instantly became jealous of him. Making matters worse, he was viewed as a sellout for leaving the Mariners. Before A-Rod had stepped foot on the diamond for the Rangers, he was a polarizing figure.

I think things would have worked out OK for Tom Hicks if the Rangers had started winning in year 1 or 2 with A-Rod. But once they got mired in losing, things started to snowball and A-Rod never had nearly the marketing magic that Hicks had expected.

The Mauer situation is quite different. First off, he's not signing "the richest deal ever." So right there he's avoided one bullseye. The other thing is that he's already loved in Minnesota and, by now, nationally. By staying with the Twins, most people will respect and appreciate him more. From a marketing standpoint, Mauer has already delivered more for the Twins than A-Rod ever did for the Rangers; and my guess is that Mauer and the Twins will only continue to build upon their momentum.

As I understand it, the Twins will pay Mauer $23 million a year from 2011 to 2018. So for 2010, they still have him at a bargain price. The only way I see this deal not working for them is if Mauer gets bogged down with injuries. Otherwise, even if the team starts losing and Mauer isn't the gold mine they had hoped, they could trade him to a contender (and I'm guessing he wouldn't veto a trade to a big market contender like the Yanks or Red Sox).

But full disclosure on my part, I wouldn't mind seeing the Twins bankrupt in four years... just to mess with Westy. ;-)

Greg said...

One other point about the Twins that I recently learned. Apparently their new ballpark is projected to bring them an extra $50 million in revenue annually. I didn't realize all of the economics involved previously, but this is a bigger jump than I had imagined.

In short, Target Field has catapulted the Twins out of the basement of MLB small market revenue bottom feeders. In the years ahead, we can expect the Twins to comfortably afford payrolls of $100 million or more. This SI article does a good job explaining the situation and the Twins' likely bright future.