Minnesota Twins: 2010 Will Decide Mauer's Future

Zeke Fuhrman@@mellamoelzekeAnalyst IIISeptember 17, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 17:  Catcher Joe Mauer #7 of the Minnesota Twins on July 17, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

It isn't something that Twins fans enjoy thinking about.

But it wouldn't be anything we aren't used to.

For the past several years, Twins fans have been awe-struck by the Twins ability to continually put a competitive ballclub on the field by building from the ground up.

But after having winning seasons (give or take one) since 2001, the Twins of the 2000s have returned to their winning ways of old, thanks to the GM moves and players brought up through the minor league system.

But there is one flaw to being a Twins fan: Small-market ballclub.

The Twins haven't been able to afford their past Cy Young and Gold Glove players. Why should fans think they will be able to hang on to their MVPs and Batting Champions?

Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Minnesota native Kent Hrbek spent his entire 14 year career as a Twin.

In Kirby Puckett's autobiography, "I Love This Game," Puck goes into detail about how he was courted by the Yankees during the 1993 offseason, only to re-sign with the Twins.

Hopefully this will be the case for Twins star Joe Mauer.

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As daunting as it is to think about, there could be a very short honeymoon for Target Field in 2011 for one main reason:

Mauer's contract runs out after the 2010 season.

If Mauer wins his third batting crown, or even the AL MVP, it will only hurt the odds of him returning to the Twins.

Unless, or course, the Twins make a World Series run.

Ichiro Suzuki, Mauer's closest rival for the 2009 AL Batting crown, is in the middle of a seven year, $100M deal.

Ichiro has won two batting titles and AL MVP award.

Many people don't understand how crucial the 2010 season will be to the future success of the Minnesota Twins.

After all, what is the point of a new stadium if you suck?

Earlier this season, Mauer, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan all publically stated that the Twins needed to make a more at the trade deadline.

Twins GM Bill Smith brought in All-Star Orlando Cabrerra.

Unless Smith wants to be remembered as the man who blew up the Twins, he needs to be more active this offseason.

If Minnesota isn't competitive in 2010, or if the front office doesn't show a competitive spirit, Mauer will be gone.

Another bad scenario for the Twins would be if they were forced to trade Mauer next season, rather than lose him to free agency. If the Twins turn out to be sellers in 2010, they could receive a hefty package for him.

In a recent interview with the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman, Hartman asked Mauer if there was a preferred time-table for a new contract.

"Not really. I'm just focused on getting to the postseason this year (Translation: If we don't make the playoffs this year, next year better be better.). I still think I have a lot of time to think about that (You better start convincing me.) Obviously, it will come down to my decision (I will let you know if I get unhappy.) I have to play through the contract (Unless the Twins suck, then I am going to want a sign-and-trade deal) I represent myself, my agent is just somebody who helps me negotiate that (I am going to have Ron Sharpio so far up your colon, you will taste Scott Boras.) I don't have to make that decision for a while here. (Put together a good pitching staff, and then we'll talk.)

Hartman also asked about Mauer playing for his hometown team.

"This is something I've been very appreciative of, and it's kind of neat. I think a lot of people always want to come back home and play for their hometown team. I've been fortunate to start off here."

So why not finish here too? Sounds like a good-bye speech to me...

Hartman concludes his column by saying he doesn't think money will play a factor in Mauer's decision.

I don't think it will either...the second time around.

Let's say, hypothetically, that the Twins lose Mauer to free agency. He signs a 10-year deal to play out east somewhere. In 2020, Mauer will be 37. He can sign a one-year deal and play 35 games in 2021 and retire a Twin.

Or, the Twins can put together competitive teams, compete for a World Series, and keep Mauer happy so he doesn't want to go anywhere.

Cause if Mauer is happy, everybody is happy.


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