How Lack of Joe Mauer Interest Would Prove These Aren't Your Father's Yankees

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How Lack of Joe Mauer Interest Would Prove These Aren't Your Father's Yankees
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There was a time not too long ago when it was widely assumed that Joe Mauer would end up playing for either the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox. Most good players invariably do, after all.

The Minnesota Twins put the kibosh on that when they had the nerve to sign their franchise catcher to a gigantic eight-year extension in 2010, when he was fresh off his MVP season in 2009. No doubt frowns were general in the New York and Boston front offices.

But on Tuesday, both the Yankees and the Red Sox were given a chance to finally make Mauer all theirs.

As Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, the Twins placed Mauer on waivers on Tuesday. If any team wanted him, there he was.

Granted, this is where we have to point out that teams putting their star players on waivers is standard operating procedure this time of year. We've gotten to a point in our rumor-ravenous world where players being placed on waivers is fodder for rampant speculation and general craziness, but these rumors are going to lead nowhere nine times out of 10.

But as the recent mega-trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox goes to show, you just never know.

It was to the Red Sox that Rosenthal's mind first raced. With roughly $250 million in salary obligations having been cleared thanks to their trade with the Dodgers, the Red Sox now have more than enough money to take on what's left of Mauer's deal with the Twins (six years at $23 million per after this season). And since they've long coveted him, Rosenthal figured the Red Sox would be tempted.

Maybe they were, but Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com has reported that the Red Sox are going to pass on Mauer:

So there goes that possibility. Fun while it lasted.

As intriguing as the possibility of Mauer being dealt (or just handed over) to the Red Sox was, my first instinct was to look to the Bronx. Surely, if any team was going to make a power play for Mauer, it would have been the Yankees and not the Red Sox.

Which, I suppose, goes to show that my instincts pertaining to the Yankees are still largely ruled by the club's reputation under the late George Steinbrenner. 

The Yankees have a need for Mauer. In fact, they need him more than the Red Sox do. Russell Martin is still hitting under .200 as we prepare to enter the final month of the season, and he's largely responsible for the fact that the Yankees have gotten a mere .291 weighted on-base average out of their catchers this season, according to FanGraphs.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Martin is working on a career-low WAR of 1.2.

Martin is not a long-term solution at catcher for the Yankees. He's due to be a free agent at the end of the season, and the Yankees are going to have options in free agency if they choose to part ways with him.

The Bombers do have Gary Sanchez waiting in the wings, but he still has a ways to go in his development as a hitter, and he's not supposed to be much of a defensive stud behind the plate. It may actually be in the club's interest to get him out of the crouch before he reaches the majors.

As such, the timing is pretty good for the Yankees to pursue somebody like Mauer. He'd be a long-term solution at catcher, and he'd certainly be an immediate upgrade over Martin. Mauer's not the hitter he once was, but a .309/.403/.425 triple-slash line is nothing to scoff at. 

It's not hard to imagine The Boss ordering Brian Cashman to put in a claim on Mauer if he were still alive. His M.O. for a long time was to draw as much star power as he possibly could to the Bronx, and the cost of doing so was of little concern. Spending, after all, meant winning, and winning meant everything.

Plus, this would have been a great chance for The Boss to flex the organization's muscles in front of the Red Sox and the rest of baseball.  We all know how much he loved to do that.

Alas, The Boss is gone. So is his way of doing things. These Yankees are not your father's Yankees. For that matter, these Yankees aren't even your younger self's Yankees. Much has changed in the last few years.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Unlike his brother Hank, Hal Steinbrenner is not a chip off the old block.

Cashman and team show-runner Hal Steinbrenner would no doubt love to bring Mauer in as an upgrade over Martin, especially now with their lineup looking a little flimsy with Curtis Granderson slumping and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguex out with injuries. 

But the cost? Yeah, the cost is simply too much.

I wanted to tack on "even for the Yankees" at the end of that last sentence, but that's a phrase that I and pretty much everyone else need to stop using. The Yankees aren't about to stop being one of the most expensive teams in baseball anytime soon, but the days of them being the most expensive team in the league by a country mile are dead and gone.

Everyone should know by now that the organization's goal is to get the club's payroll under the $189 million luxury tax threshold by 2014.

By then, they're going to have at least three players making over $20 million per year in Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira. Derek Jeter could make as much as $17 million in 2014, and Curtis Granderson and/or Robinson Cano could be taking up a lot of payroll space if the Yankees sign them to extensions.

So, we're talking about maybe four players taking up over $100 million or five players taking up as much as $120 million.

Just imagine if Mauer and his $23 million annual salaries were to be added to the mix. The Yankees would have five or six super-expensive (most likely five, with Granderson or Cano hitting the road after 2013) contracts eating up well over half of their $189 million payroll allotment. They'd be forced to fill out the rest of their roster with dirt-cheap players.

Just as concerning is the reality that they'd be in a position to get a relatively small amount of bang for their buck from their new foursome of $20 million stars.

Mauer is still good, but he's a diminished player and on the decline. A-Rod is not the hitter he once was, and he likely never will be the hitter he once was. Teixeira is getting a little worse every year. Sabathia has pitched well when he's been healthy this season, but he's had to go on the disabled list on two separate occasions. He may be breaking down.

Would taking on Joe Mauer's contract be worth the risk for the Yankees?

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There'd be very high risk in those four contracts, but not the potential for high reward. It's hard enough to get good value from one $20 million player. Getting good value from four is next to impossible.

The Yankees aren't stupid. They know this. And we know they know this because there hasn't been a single peep about them possibly making a move for Mauer (not that I've seen, anyway). Honestly, I doubt that Cashman or any of his underlings or overlings even took a minute to take the idea of putting a claim in on Mauer seriously.

Cashman knows what the score is in the Bronx these days. And contrary to how things were as recently as a few years ago, there's nobody around to push the buttons that he'd rather not push (another Rafael Soriano situation is unlikely here).

So count out the Red Sox, and count out the Yankees. If the Twins actually want to move Mauer, they should hope another team comes calling.

Sounds like a job for Ned Colletti.

 

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

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