Minnesota Twins: 5 Reasons Joe Mauer Must Move to First Base

Chris Schad@@crishadContributor IIIJuly 3, 2012

Minnesota Twins: 5 Reasons Joe Mauer Must Move to First Base

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    The Minnesota Twins have had a tough time getting their value out of Joe Mauer and his $23 million salary for the 2012 season.

    Although Mauer is headed for his fifth All-Star appearance and leads the American League in on-base percentage, fans still want more from Mauer, as he has hit just four home runs and driven in 36 on the season.

    When Mauer signed his extension, his value was determined as an elite catcher. However, since last year's bout with bilateral leg weakness, he's had trouble staying behind the plate, and that has lead the Twins to try Mauer at different positions.

    With the outfield and third base being solidified by Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe, the only other option for Mauer is to move him to first base.

    While it may not seem like the Twins would get their value by moving him to first, there are several reasons why this is the best scenario for the team.

It Would Prolong His Career

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    We'll start with the obvious. A move to first base would mean that Mauer wouldn't have to deal with the rigors of catching on an everyday basis.

    The most recent example of a prized catcher getting hurt was in San Francisco, where Buster Posey broke his ankle after a home plate collision in May 2011. The Giants suffered without Posey in the lineup, and they failed to make the postseason to defend their 2010 World Series Championship.

    While some Twins fans would beg to differ, losing Mauer's bat in the Twins' lineup would produce a similar effect. Putting him at first base would limit the chance of Mauer becoming injured, and that should help the Twins win more games as a result.

Mauer Doesn't Catch That Much Anyway

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    Mauer was selected as a catcher for the 2012 All-Star Game, but the reality is that he isn't catching as much as he used to.

    Breaking down his games by position in 2012, Mauer has played 35 games (47 percent) behind the plate entering Monday. Compared to his 2012 All-Star Game colleagues, Mauer is dead last behind Texas' Mike Napoli (67 percent) and Matt Wieters (92 percent).

    When Mauer isn't playing that much behind the plate anyway, it makes sense to take him out of harm's way by putting him at first base.

The Presence of Ryan Doumit

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    When Mauer had his first major struggles with injuries in 2010, the Twins were forced to use Drew Butera to replace him in the lineup.

    The fallacy with Butera is that he's really good at handling a pitching staff...even better than Mauer at times. However, when Butera is catching, his pitchers have an ERA over 4.00.

    On the offensive end, the Twins' lineup has faltered without Mauer, as Butera has a career OPS of .508.

    Because of this, Minnesota went out and signed Ryan Doumit to play backup catcher when he isn't the designated hitter.

    While the results haven't been the same as Texas acquiring Mike Napoli a season ago (and that's putting it politely), the Twins have been so pleased with Doumit's performance that they signed him to a two-year contract extension late last week, according to TwinCities.com.

    With Doumit in the fold, the Twins no longer have to worry about having Drew Butera as their everyday catcher should Mauer be moved from behind the plate.

It Would Help the Twins Move on from Justin Morneau

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    Before we get too deep into this, I should clarify that Justin Morneau is not going anywhere at the trade deadline. This is why.

    Morneau is not the same player that he was when winning the 2006 AL MVP award. While no Twins fan wants to see him go out like this, the sad reality is that we're seeing a quick decline for one of the greatest players in Twins history.

    While there is a chance that Morneau could recover, the Twins could kill two birds with one stone by moving Mauer to first base.

    With Mauer at first, the Twins could either move Morneau (who has suffered several injuries himself over the past couple seasons) to designated hitter or get rid of him altogether.

    Again, I don't think many Twins fans want to see this scenario play out, but if Morneau doesn't produce like he's capable of, it might be the best thing for the franchise.

Mauer's Body Can No Longer Handle Catching

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    Mauer is a pretty big guy. Coming into professional baseball, he had a scholarship offer from Florida State to play quarterback. That's how big and strong he is.

    However, as a catcher, that can have its downfalls. Mauer's body is already breaking down, as he's had to handle an enormous workload earlier in his career.

    The Twins have been lucky to see Mauer last this long behind the plate after using him about 130 times a season, but they'll need to get him out of there before it's too late and his career suffers an early exit.

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