Minnesota Twins: Big Contract or Not, Joe Mauer Should Move to the Infield

Josh SadlockCorrespondent IIIJune 30, 2011

Could this become a more familliar sight in Minnesota?
Could this become a more familliar sight in Minnesota?Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Catcher is the most physically demanding position in the Majors.  Because of this fact, most catchers are better known for their defense than their ability to produce offensively.  A catcher who can hit .300 or drive in close to 100 runs is a rare commodity.

This is why Joe Mauer makes $23 million a year.  The Twins, driven by Mauer's offensive production and hometown appeal, rewarded the catcher last spring with an eight-year, $184 million contract extension.  The Twins knew what they were getting into here.  There was simply no way the Twins could have expected Mauer to catch for the duration of his contract.

Now, they are paying the price for investing so much money in Mauer and expecting him to catch every day.

Joe Mauer has played in only 21 games this season and is batting only .213.  Simply put, his body is breaking down.  Mauer has never appeared in more than 146 games in a single season, but it seems his body is now betraying him.  Plenty of analysts expected Mauer to be moved to the infield at some point in his career, but not so soon.  Well, Minnesota, the time has come for a permanent move out from behind the dish for the face of the franchise.

While most analysts, citing Mauer's position as the reason for his salary, state that Mauer needs to be left behind the plate for the Twins to make maximum return on their investment, that is not necessarily the case.  First of all, the Twins overpaid for Mauer.  He is a hometown hero and the franchise saw the necessity of keeping him in the Twin Cities for the foreseeable future.  Secondly, even if Mauer was a career infielder or DH, his career .324 average and 2009 MVP award would merit a salary close to what he is already making. 

Try telling me that a team like the Cubs, Yankees, or Red Sox would not pay that much for a player of Mauer's caliber.

The Twins have plenty of incentive for playing Mauer in the infield for the rest of the season.  They are sorely missing his production, and with no timetable for Justin Morneau's return, runs are at a premium in Minnesota.  The absence of Morneau makes this a perfect time for Mauer to learn the position without taking the playing time of an established star.

Joe Mauer's days behind the plate are numbered.  The Twins must realize that no matter what position Mauer plays, he will always be worth more playing there more than sitting on the bench.