Pros and Cons of the Boston Red Sox Pulling off a Joe Mauer Blockbuster Trade
The Boston Red Sox have certainly shown that they're not averse to pulling off blockbuster deals, at least under the regime of general manager Ben Cherington.
Last August, Cherington set out to change the face of the team, sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The trade took $251.5 million in contracts off the books.
The Sox certainly paid the price for that deal, finishing with their worst regular season record since 1965.
Now, at least one writer is proposing changing the face of the team again—in this case, adding a big face.
Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe suggested in his "Sunday Baseball Notes" column that the Red Sox should consider making a splash by bringing in a quality hitter that will add to their current core.
We'll take a look at the pros and cons of adding Mauer to the Red Sox and determine whether or not it actually makes sense to at least explore the opportunity.
Pros: Mauer Would Be Happy in Boston
The Boston Red Sox have long been enamored with Joe Mauer, and Mauer in turn has seemingly held the Red Sox in high regard as well.
As Nick Cafardo brought up in his "Sunday Baseball Notes" column, Boston very well could have been the team that Mauer signed up had he not re-signed in Minnesota.
In addition, Mauer lives in the Ft. Myers area, the spring training home of the Red Sox, and he's always held the Red Sox in high regard.
Seems like a dream matchup to me. A happy Mauer would be a productive Mauer if he's with a team that can compete year after year and in a place he wants to be.
Pros: Mauer's Contract Won't Be Detriment to Any Deal with Twins
Mauer currently has six years left on his contract, which calls for an annual salary of $23 million until his age-35 season.
The Red Sox just unloaded $251.5 million in contracts with their mega-deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that included two players receiving over $20 million annually.
Nick Cafardo brought up in his column that the Twins might be willing to eat some of Mauer's contract if the Red Sox were to include quality players in a return package.
That may not be necessary if including money is a deal-breaker for the Twins. The Red Sox are certainly among the list of teams that could absorb a contract like Mauer's without being hamstrung in the process.
Cons: Mauer's Injury History and Diminished Production
To say that Joe Mauer is delicate is a vast understatement.
The Minnesota Twins have long handled Mauer with surgical gloves ever since his arrival to the majors in 2004.
Mauer's knees have always been a source of concern, and during the 2012 season, he played in 147 games—the most of his career. However, that was in large part because the Twins continued protecting him—Mauer caught only 74 games the entire season.
In addition, Mauer's production in 2012 was down: He hit just 10 home runs with 85 RBI. While the .319 average was nice, the numbers were a far cry from Mauer's most productive year in 2009 (.365, 28 HR, 96 RBI).
Mauer will be 30 at the beginning of next season, so there's certainly no talk of any career regression going on. But have the injuries taken a toll on Mauer overall? Is he capable of seeing better power numbers in the future?
One can't blame pitcher-friendly Target Field as the reason for Mauer's diminished production. He hit .342 with an .878 OPS at home—a full 34 points better than on the road.
The Red Sox have certainly had their share of injury woes with major stars in recent years (David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury). Do they really want to add another to the core mix?
Cons: Minnesota Twins Will Be Asking for Far Too Much in Return
The Twins will likely only be willing to listen to an offer for catcher Joe Mauer if the package they receive in return is substantial.
The team's biggest need is pitching, and it will be looking for starters that can help now. It wouldn't surprise me if the Twins insisted that the Red Sox include starter Clay Buchholz in the package coming back to Minnesota.
They could also insist that catching prospect Ryan Lavarnway be included as well.
One of the issues that Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has discussed in outlining his plan for the future is making deals that are prudent in nature and that don't hamstring his club for the future.
Twins general manager Terry Ryan will absolutely be expecting teams to overpay in terms of a return package for Mauer. That's likely the only way Mauer leaves Minnesota.
The Red Sox would be mortgaging a huge chunk of their future by including players like Lavarnway and/or Buchholz and others.
Summary: Red Sox Should Explore Other Options
The idea of Joe Mauer in a Boston Red Sox uniform does have some appeal, but not enough to mortgage a major part of their future.
The injury history and diminished production are certainly concerns, and Mauer will have to continue to be handled with care.
In addition, the package of return players the Twins will likely require will sap the Red Sox both now and in the future. The Twins aren't just looking to build for the future, they're looking for players who are ready right now.
While the Sox have a solid group of core players, taking away complementary pieces from that core is just as counter-productive, especially for a player that comes with a laundry list of concerns.
If the Red Sox were to explore a mega-deal to add to their core, I would be more inclined to pursue another player mentioned by The Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo in his "Sunday Baseball Notes" column: Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.
Tulowitzi certainly comes with his own injury concerns, but he also brings Gold Glove Award-winning defense and the capability of a 30 HR/100 RBI season year in and year out.
However, acquiring Tulowitzki would likely be even more costly to the Sox than Mauer, so the future once again would be mortgaged.
In summary, it's nice to take a look at players who might look good in a Boston Red Sox uniform. However, the price to be paid to acquire that player can absolutely negate all the good that player might bring along with him. That's not a trade-off that makes sense.
The Red Sox unloaded Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford for good reason: to free themselves up financially from deals that were clearly going to hamstring them in the future.
Acquiring Mauer might not necessarily hamstring them in the same way, but it does take away from the goals of GM Cherington, which is building a team from within and adding pieces via free agency or trade in a prudent fashion.
I say thanks, but no thanks.
Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.