Joe Mauer has been the face of the Minnesota Twins franchise for years, but the team has not treated him that way as of late. The Minnesota native did get a massive eight-year, $184 million contract from the Twins prior to the 2011 season, but things have been a bit rocky for both him and the Twins since then.
Mauer missed an extended period of time due to a leg injury in 2011 and he had the worst season of his career (h/t Stephania Bell of ESPN). His .287 batting average and his 30 RBI were both career lows. The injury and the struggles caused Mauer to be considered to be overpaid by both the fans and the media (h/t Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports).
Things got better on the field for Mauer in 2012, as he was able to stay healthy enough to appear in 145 games. Mauer hit .322 and drove in 85 runs while positing an impressive 142 OPS+ on the season.
While Mauer saw things improve on the field, his relationship with the team seemingly grew more strained. For the majority of his career, Mauer was a solid defensive catcher.
Even when Mauer was struggling with his leg injury in 2011, he still managed to throw out 30 percent of attempted base stealers and post a 0.2 dWAR. Additionally, Mauer is known for working well with the pitching staff and calling a good game.
During the 2012 season, the Twins began to have Mauer DH and play first base much more often than he had in the past. He only spent about half of his time at catcher this season, as he DH'ed for 40 games this year and played first for another 30 games.
Catcher is the position that Mauer has spent the majority of his career playing and it is clear that is the position that he wants to play.
However, manager Ron Gardenhire has mentioned that he has considered moving Mauer to third base (h/t Joe Christensen of Star-Tribune).
This would certainly be an interesting position for Mauer considering that he has no experience in either the majors or minors at the position. Additionally, one has to be concerned about the type of range that Mauer would have at the hot corner.
It seems clear that Mauer is not a fan of the idea. When asked about the issue, Mauer said that he believed that the Twins were "a better team when I'm behind the plate" (h/t Joe Christensen of the Star-Tribune).
Trying to move Mauer to third base could be the last straw in Mauer's tenure in Minnesota. In addition to all of the other issues that Mauer has had to put up with, this could further drive a stake between him and the team.
The Twins already placed Mauer on waivers this summer, so it is possible that they were exploring trades involving their catcher (h/t ESPN). That move certainly did not help the relationship between Mauer and the Twins.
Bleacher Report's own Ian Casselberry has discussed how this move could have been foreshadowing for a winter trade. Add in this new wrinkle that the Twins want Mauer to change positions and an offseason deal becomes more likely.
Even though Mauer has proven that he can once again play at an All-Star level this season, the Twins will not have an easy time dealing him. There are still six years and $138 million left on his deal. That is a lot to pay a catcher, regardless of his talent level.
It could turn out that trading Mauer is a salary dump for the Twins so that they can improve for the future. Just over two years ago, it would have been hard to imagine Mauer playing anywhere other than Minnesota, but that is starting to look like more and more of a reality.