The Yankees have a busy offseason ahead of them, with three offensive regulars (Russell Martin, Nick Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki), two starting pitchers (Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte) and two important relievers (Mariano Rivera and Rafael Soriano) all free agents, in addition to other question marks on the roster.
Some of these players will be back and others will not. Offensively, Swisher is likely on his way out and Suzuki may be as well. Martin is more of an unknown.
Mauer has knee problems that keep him from being a full-time catcher at this point in his career, but he showed that his bat in 2012 is still one of baseball’s best.
In 147 games, he led the American League with a .416 on-base percentage to go along with a .319 average and 10 home runs in a pitcher’s park. He caught 74 games, played first base in 30 and was the Twins’ designated hitter in 42.
Mauer’s bat would be a great addition to an aging Yankees’ lineup that has become increasingly dependent on the home runs and strikes out far too often (Mauer only struck out 88 times in 2012, which was his career-high). He would help them manufacture runs and would be on base often when the Yankees’ power hitters do hit home runs.
However, I don’t see Mauer as a fit for the Yankees, both because of his defensive limitations and his long, expensive contract.
The team needs a starting catcher, most likely Russell Martin or another player. But they need their catcher to be more or less a full-time player, which Mauer is not. I think the most a team can expect to see Mauer behind home plate is about half the time. The rest would be at first base, where the Yankees have Gold Glove winner Mark Teixeira, and at DH, where they will use Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Teixeira and other aging veterans.
Mauer’s bat would certainly be helpful, but his defense does not fit in with this Yankees’ team.
His contract is prohibitive as well.
Mauer has $138 million left over six seasons. The team’s payroll is high enough as it is, but the organization’s determination to put the payroll under $198 million by 2014 is a barrier too. Acquiring Mauer at his full salary, or even close to it, would make that goal almost impossible to achieve.
If the Yankees can get the Twins to pay most of Joe Mauer’s salary, he could be worked into the team’s 2013 lineup. If not, Brian Cashman will either have to abandon the $189-million-by-2014 plan or go after more cost-efficient options.