Without context, the eight-year, $184 million contract extension that Mauer signed back in March of 2010 looks like a mistake. These days, he certainly doesn't look like a player worthy of over $20 million per season.
With context, however, his contract extension still looks like a no-brainer.
When Mauer signed it, he was fresh off an MVP season that saw him hit .365/.444/.587 with a career-high 28 home runs in just 138 games. He also won a Gold Glove.
At the time the deal was struck, ESPN's Buster Olney hit the nail on the head when he wrote that Mauer was "generally regarded as the American League's best player and may be baseball's most coveted player." He was baseball's golden boy.
Things have changed pretty drastically over the last three seasons. Mauer is now largely overlooked on the national landscape, in part because the Twins have become a mess of a team and in part because Mauer's skills have diminished.
Most concerning of all is the fact that it's become apparent this season that Mauer isn't a full-time catcher anymore.
The word from the St. Paul Pioneer-Press is that the Twins are hoping to have Mauer catch more than he has this season in the future, but disrupting the status quo that has been established in 2012 will be awfully risky. Mauer has essentially split his time between catching, playing first base and DH'ing, and in return the Twins have gotten 131 games and a .319/.414/.447 triple-slash line out of him.
Production such as this must not be put at risk because it's basically the high-water mark for Mauer at this point in his career. The power that he showed in his MVP season in 2009 is long gone, and was probably a fluke all along.
With his power gone and his full-time catching days possibly done for good, Mauer is no longer the power-hitting, do-it-all elite catcher that the Twins thought they were going to have for years to come. Had they known this was going to happen, they probably never would have signed him long-term.
Since they can't take the contract back, trading him is the only way to minimize the damage of their misstep. And trading him sooner rather than later is definitely in their interest.