Joe Mauer Position Change: 10 Catchers the Twins Could Go After to Let Him Move

Sean ConeryContributor IIIMay 23, 2011

Joe Mauer Position Change: 10 Catchers the Twins Could Go After to Let Him Move

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    BALTIMORE - JULY 22:  Joe Mauer #7 of the Minnesota Twins warms up before the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on July 22, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Joe Mauer is making 23 million dollars this year and he has only played in 9 games. He hasn't seen the field since April 12th, and although he loves the catcher position, a 23 million dollar salary is a whole lot of money to pay somebody just to warm the bench. In his eight seasons so far, Mauer has only managed to avoid a major injury in three of them, not a good number for Twins fans. With seven more years to go at 23 million dollars a season, the Twins have to at least find a way to keep him on the field.

    It's been pointed out that Joe instantly becomes an over-paid athlete if he plays any other position, but overpaying him has to outweigh paying him all of that money just to rehab in Fort Meyers.

    Mauer is a whopping 6'5 and 235 lbs, making him the biggest catcher in the game today, maybe ever. It's more rare to see a player of his build behind the plate because it's harder for taller players to meet the physical demands of the position, and Joe's extensive DL history proves that he's no exception.

    Since he's such an amazing athlete, Mauer could handle almost any position on the field and handle it well. There are definitely ways that the Twins could shuffle things around, but there are some reasonable trades possibilities that might benefit the Twins more than just scrambling the lineup a bit.

Go After Pro REDy Catcher Devin Mesoraco

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    SARASOTA, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Devin Mesoraco #85 of the Cincinnati Reds poses for a photo during Spring Training Photo day on February 18, 2009 at the Cincinnati Reds training facility in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Twins get: Devin Mesoraco, decent filler prospect(s)

    Reds get: Delmon Young/Top Pitcher, Danny Rams, Trevor Plouffe

    This trade seems very unattractive at first glance because the Twins would have to give up a lot for just one player. Still, in the end the Twins would be better off going for something like, especially down the line.

    Devin Mesoraco put up monster numbers last year (.302 BA, .587 SLG, 26 HR) while climbing the ranks from A to AAA ball. Since he's such a strong option to replace Mauer, the Twins would lose their best catching prospect, Delmon Young, and the best middle infielder that they could bear to part with.

    Why so much?

    The Reds have an amazing starting lineup, with catcher, left field, and shortstop being their only weak points. Their best prospect by far is Mesoraco and he could fill one of those needs. For the Reds to give up their catcher of the future, the Twins would have to give up some of their top players.

    Delmon would get shipped off to make room for Mauer in left field, where he'd do just fine. If it somehow didn't go well, Joe could bump over to the easier right side the next year, let Kubel DH, and have Span and whoever the best outfielder prospect is (probably Hicks or Revere) man the other two spots. Cuddyer probably wouldn't be in the picture because his production is already dropping off and it won't be any better next year.

    Not only would Delmon's departure help move Mauer, but the Reds would get their left field spot upgraded from the mediocre Jonny Gomes to the increasingly potent Delmon Young. The Twins would also have to give up their best catcher prospect, Danny Rams, to help fill the void left by Mesoraco in Cincinnati's farm system.

    Even then, the Reds get the worse end of the deal since they downgrade significantly at catcher for a moderate upgrade in left or at pitcher. The Twins would have to throw in a solid shortstop prospect, like Plouffe, to sweeten the deal. Plouffe has already paid his dues in the minors, and as of late he has been very impressive batting .286 with 2 home runs in his last seven games.

    Paul Janish is decent shortstop, but Plouffe would be a huge upgrade for Cincinnati, especially at the plate. The Twins should be okay for awhile with Casilla, Tolbert, and Luke Hughes holding down the SS spot until Miguel Sano is ready.

    If the Reds really like what they're seeing in young left fielder Chris Heisey, the Twins would have to give up someone else since Young wouldn't be worth much in the trade. That could mean losing a top pitcher like Francisco Liriano or pitching prospect like Liam Hendricks, which would make the trade even harder since the Twins have struggled so much lately on the mound.

    Still, there is a deal to be struck where the Twins would get Mesoraco without the Reds completely ripping them off. Cincinnati would just have to give up an extra mid-level prospect to even things up. A guy like pitcher Sam LeCure would be fair.

    The Reds would be the winners of this trade, at least right away, but it would benefit the Twins just enough to be worth it.

Land Matt Just Like That

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    BALTIMORE - MAY 13:  Matt Wieters #32 of the Baltimore Orioles tags out Josh Wilson #16 of the Seattle Mariners for the final out at Camden Yards on May 13, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles won the game 6-5.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Twins get: Matt Wieters, filler prospect(s)

    Orioles get: Delmon Young, Danny Rams

    Getting rid of Delmon Young would be hard on Twins fans, but Mauer would do well in left and there are many teams that could really use Young's bat. The Orioles are no exception, because Luke Scott and Felix Pie aren't the best options out in left field.

    The Twins would be giving up a great catching prospect in Rams who could replace Wieters as soon as next year, and Delmon would help Baltimore compete in the powerhouse AL East division.

    The O's have already invested a lot of money to field a good team, and Delmon could manage to put them over the top if he finishes the year strong. Anybody who thinks Delmon is being overvalued here should check out his actual statistics. Young traditionally has a much better second half of the season, making hims useful to Baltimore right away. He's also still improving being only 25 years of age, making him valuable down the line as well.

    In return, the Twins get Matt Wieters, a steadily improving catcher who is also only 25 years old. He's been doing pretty well this year, batting .279 with 4 homers and 25 runs batted in. That stat line sure looks pretty compared to Drew Butera's, who has only 5 RBI's, and a lousy .110 batting average this year.

    Butera only has three extra base hits and a big goose egg in the home run column too. He is a back up catcher at best, and he will never be able to be an adequate starter behind the plate.

    In addition to Wieters, an additional prospect or two would even things up. Maybe a combo like pitchers Brandon Bundy and Eddie Gamboa would work.

Give Anaheim Another Angel in the Outfield

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    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - MAY 01:  Catcher Hank Conger #16 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits a solo home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the game at Tropicana Field on May 1, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Twins get: Hank Conger, filler prospect(s)

    Angels get: Delmon Young, Danny Rams, top relief pitcher

    Here's another one where the Twins would give away quite a bit of talent for one guy. The Angels could use help in left field, and the outfield trifecta of Hunter, Wells, and Young would be as good as it gets. Still, the Angels don't have many holes, and losing their new top catcher would take a lot of good players to make happen.

    Delmon can be a powerful addition to any lineup, and he's not too much of a liability in the field. He won't make too many amazing catches now, but once he gets used to his new, lighter body after losing all of that weight, he should improve. The Twins would get to move Mauer out to left field and let his natural ability carry him through the transition.

    Danny Rams would of course get sent over as he is the only catcher in the Twins' farm system with starting catcher potential. He's a young power hitter who would fit into the Angels offense well.

    Even with those two, the Twins would have to make it worth it for the Angels with a stronger offer. The trade wouldn't make much sense for a serious 2011 playoff contender like Los Angeles-Anaheim unless they did. So, the Twins would have to say goodbye to a couple of pitchers as well. The Angels starting rotation prospects are very solid, but their relief pitchers could use help. Guys like Jepsen, Rodriguez, and Takahashi could all be replaced by better talent. Carlos Gutierrez would be a valuable trade chip as he prefers to pitch out of the bullpen and has an impressive 97 mph fastball.

    It's hard to watch so much talent go, but the Twins always replace their prospects very quickly, so losing some of them for the greater good isn't as scary as it sounds.

    For all of this, the Twins could land a very promising young catcher in Hank Conger, who already is getting time on the Angels squad. He hit .300 with 11 home runs in AAA last year, so he can hit for average and some power. Those numbers aren't totally amazing, and his .244 average isn't overly impressive this year, but the guy is only 23 years old. He will keep getting better and prove to be a fixture at catcher for years.

    Minnesota would also probably manage to squeeze a decent prospect out of the Angels as well. They might ask for Don Roach, a pitcher who would fit their favorite strike throwing, groundout causing prototype.

Looking West Might Work Best

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    OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 30:  Kurt Suzuki #8 of the Oakland Athletics in action against the Texas Rangers at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 30, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Twins get: Kurt Suzuki, decent prospect (maybe Ian Krol)

    Athletics get: Delmon Young, Danny Rams

    Yet another trade where the Twins lose Young, this one also ships him out to sunny California. As far as needs, this trade is much more simple than the last. The A's need outfielders, and the Twins need a catcher. Suzuki and Delmon are both underrated but similarly valuable players at their positions. Young's numbers are better, but Suzuki is a top ten catcher when considering his plate numbers and good fielding while Delmon is about top 10 as a left fielder too.

    The reason Delmon isn't a top left fielder is his inconsistency. Sometimes he plays all-star caliber ball, and sometimes he slumps hard. If Delmon plays well, he could instantly become the A's best hitter and make the trade really worth their while. The Twins meanwhile would get to give Mauer's long legs a break and move him to Young's old spot.

    To give the A's a replacement for Suzuki, the Twins might also have to toss Danny Rams into the mix, but this would mean the A's would have to compensate his inclusion by giving Minnesota a prospect of their own.

    The Twins are hurting at pitcher, so they could definitely shoot for one of the A's decent prospects. It's hard to say who they'd pick, but the Twins scouts have an amazing knack for finding gems. Odds are they would try to get the best starting prospect they could, maybe a guy like Ian Krol who can throw strikes. The 20 year-old will never be a staff ace, but he would fill the value deficit left by giving up Young and Rams for just Suzuki.

    Suzuki is solid behind the plate, he stays healthy, and he can put up decent numbers. His career batting average is a respectable .263, and his OPS is alright at .710. His fielding is top notch this year too; he only has one error and he's picked off a whopping 50% of base stealers.

Try to Take a Mulligan

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    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26:  Wilson Ramos #3 of the Washington Nationals is congratulated by teammates after hitting a home run in the second inning against the New York Mets at Nationals Park on April 26, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Gett
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Twins get: Wilson Ramos, filler prospect(s)

    Nationals get: Delmon Young, Scott Baker

    The Nationals need help wherever they can get it, with left field and starting pitcher being huge areas of need. Delmon Young, and a starting pitcher would instantly upgrade each spot and entice the Nationals to give back the Twins' best prospect from a year ago.

    Once again Delmon becomes the centerpiece to add value to the Twins trade offer and let Mauer move to left. The Nationals current starter in left, Michael Morse, is hitting only .258 with 2 home runs so far this year. Delmon is starting very slowly, but he's a career .289 hitter with 59 home runs, 21 of which came last year.

    Giving the Nationals Scott Baker would be scratching their back so they would scratch the Twins'. The Twins would further sweeten the deal since there would be a brief hole at the catcher for the Nationals, and they would also make room for incoming prospects at pitcher. Baker has shown flashes of brilliance and would easily crack the starting rotation in Washington.

    With Wilson Ramos, the Twins would get an immediate power addition to their lineup. He's already starting to prove why he was such valuable trade bait last year for the Twins, hitting .280 with 3 home runs in just 100 at bats this year. The reason the Nationals would give him up is because they can weather the storm at catcher with I-Rod until Derek Norris is able to take over. Norris is the Nationals other strong catching prospect who could be ready as early as next season.

Bronx Blockbuster

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    NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15:  Russell Martin #55 of the New York Yankees in action during their game against the Boston Red Sox  on May 15, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Twins get: Russell Martin, Ivan Nova, Joba Chamberlain

    Yankees get: Delmon Young, Fransisco Liriano

    The Yankees were actually strongly interested in Liriano before the season started, and they would still probably love to have him, so the Twins could spin it to fit their needs. Liriano himself isn't worth the Yankees' top prospects, but the Twins don't need to ask for them.

    The Yanks were apparently considering giving up Ivan Nova or Joba Chamberlain for him originally, but by throwing in Young, who is better than Brent Gardner in every area except speed, the Twins could land both pitchers.

    Delmon is admittedly streaky, and Gardener is a better fielder and baserunner, but when Delmon is hot he is as good as anybody in the league at the plate and would be yet another bomber in the Bronx. Historically, the Yankees consider hitting first and fielding second, so they'd probably go for Young.

    Liriano has also had a roller coaster year, but if he ever finds consistency he can be the Yankees number two guy. Ivan Nova has great stuff and a lot of untapped potential, but he's having just an okay year as well. The Twins and the Yankees could both just take a shot at swapping pitchers and hoping that the change of scenery benefits them.

    Despite his stupid fist pump thing, Joba Chamberlain would bolster the Twins very poor bullpen making him a valuable addition to the team as well.

    The Twins would also get Russel Martin, the 29 year-old catcher, who is having another year with a batting average over .270 that is already accompanied by 8 long balls. Martin is a great catcher and would allow the Twins to comfortably move Mauer out to left. This might sound like a poor deal for the Yankees, but top catching prospect Jesus Montero is pro-ready and the move would open up his spot. The Yankees would also save a couple bucks giving away his contract, not that it matters though.

    There could be a couple of prospects added in the deal, but there's a mutually beneficial trade to be made revolving around these guys.

Reach Across the Border

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 14: J.P. Arencibia #9 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits a two-run double against the Minnesota Twins during the eleventh inning of their game on May 14, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Blue Jays defeated the Twins 9-3 in
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Twins get: J.P. Arencibia, filler prospect(s)

    Blue Jays get: Danny Valencia, Danny Rams, Denard Span

    This trade would move Joe Mauer to third base. He obviously has the reflexes and arm needed to handle the hot corner, but losing a great player like Danny Valencia would be hard for Twins fans.

    Valencia has finally started to shine at the major league level, and he's already knocked 5 balls out of the park this year.

    So if the Blue Jays give up Arencibia, they replace a lot of his power with Danny. J.P is batting .244 this year, 11 points better than Valencia, and his 8 home run output is also greater thus far. Still, Valencia hit .311 last year proving he can hit for average, and his meager 7 home run total is on pace to be easily beat this year. Once he figures out how to hit for both average and power, he'll be an All-Star caliber third baseman.

    To replace Arecibia as a prospect, the Twins would have to toss in Danny Rams, who could be just as good in a few years time.

    Valencia would be a huge upgrade over Nix and Encarnacion at 3rd, but his ceiling is lower than J.P's, so the Twins would have to polish off their trade offer by including another immediate upgrade for the Jays. Denard Span would work well in Toronto's outfield, as he hits for average and would provide more run-scoring ability and speed to compliment the Blue Jays' power. Span would be better than Davis or Patterson in the outfield, and the Twins would then have room for up and comer Aaron Hicks.

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure

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    DENVER, CO - MAY 09:  Cacther Chris Iannetta #20 of the Colorado Rockies celebrates in the dugout after his solo homerun off of starting pitcher Chris Capuano #38 of the New York Mets to give the Rockies a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning at Coors Field on
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Twins get: Chris Iannetta, Tyler Matzek or another top pitching prospect

    Rockies get: Danny Valencia

    Once again, the Twins have to let go one of their most proven prospects and top locker personalities in Danny Valencia, but it would really be worth it. Mauer's legs would be huge fans of this move, and Twins fans would grow to like it too.

    Valencia would put an end to the Rockies third base debate between the great Ty Wiggington, who hit .275 with 24 homers... in 2006, and Jose Lopez who's average is barely over .200 on the year. Wiggington is 33 now and his fielding and hitting have greatly dropped off since his last great season 5 years ago. Valencia is only hitting .233 with 5 home runs this year, but his career average is over 50 points better and his power is improving. He can be a solid anchor at the hot corner for at least 5 years, probably longer.

    In turn the Twins would get Chris Iannetta, the Rockies under-appreciated catcher. Since last year when he got dumped down to AAA after just a few bad games, Iannetta hasn't quite fully bounced back to top form. In 2008 he was a top notch catcher posting a .265 average with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs, but since then, he hasn't been able to come close to that type of production. The talent is there, but it seems like the demotion shook him up something fierce.

    If ex-Twin Jose Morales ever returns to his 2009 form, the Rockies will probably phase out Iannetta anyways. The Twins boast one of the strongest clubhouses in the league, and his new teammates would be the best chance he could have to bounce back.

    While the Rockies might not be up to including their most prized pitching prospect, Tyler Matzek, a pair of other guys like Chad Bettis and Juan Nicasio would also be acceptable. Since Iannetta hasn't had a great year since '08, it would be more fair if the Rockies gave up Matzek though. Chris would be a much bigger risk for the Twins than Valencia would be for Colorado.

    With this trade, the Rockies would get about as close to a sure thing as they could get in a trade with Valencia, and the Twins would get at least get a pitching prospect consolation prize if Iannetta proved to be a permanently fallen star.

Call It Quits on 2011

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 7: Michael Cuddyer #5 of the Minnesota Twins in the dugout following a 2-5 loss to the New York Yankees in game two of the ALDS game on October 7, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Im
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Twins get: Rod Barajas, at least two of the Dodgers top prospects

    Dodgers get: Danny Valencia, Francisco Liriano

    Out of all of these ten trades, this would be by far the hardest for Twins fans to accept. At 15-30, the Twins have the worst record in all of baseball and are already 14.5 games out of first. It might only be June, but many folks are already starting to count them out.

    If things don't turn around by the All-Star break, the Twins could either go for a slight or for a full overhaul of their roster. Guys like Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome are closing in on retirement, so switching a couple of players around might be the best way to get ready for another five or so years with the same core group of guys. If the Twins go for a complete rebuilding project though, only Mauer's spot would be safe.

    With such a solid group of younger players and such a big investment in payroll recently, it would be surprising if the Twins blew it all up. It is much more likely that they would try to move players that are in the way of their top prospects getting their shot. This would allow them to compete next year and let the young guys gain some valuable experience in the second half of 2011.

    Juan Uribe and Casey Blake are aging quickly, and they are only decent options at third base for Los Angeles. Danny Valencia on the other hand is well on his way towards becoming a great third baseman for at very least the next five years. Giving the Dodgers a huge upgrade at the hot corner while only receiving the mediocre, at best, Barajas would warrant a top prospect to better the Twins' end of the bargain.

    Francisco Liriano would also be a trade chip at this point. The Twins are pretty stubborn in thinking guys like Baker, Blackburn, and Slowey can be solid starters, so Liriano would be the most likely to go in a trade. He's still getting used to his post Tommy John surgery arm, but if he masters it he has staff ace potential. Liriano is pretty good anyways, and with such high potential adding to his value, the Dodgers would owe the Twins another top prospect.

    Assuming the Twins would go after at least two top prospects, their best options might be Dee Gordon and Rubby De La Rosa. Dee Gordon is a nearly pro-ready shortstop who could replace Alexi Casilla as soon as this year. He is currently hitting .311 in his first season of AAA ball and appears to be one of the best SS prospects out there. If Nishioka pans out for the Twins at second, the addition of Gordon could secure their middle infield for the next decade.

    Rubby De La Rosa is one of the Dodgers best pitching prospects and possibly the most pro-ready of the bunch. He only averages five innings a start so he'd either have to improve his arm strength or move to the bullpen, but he has a promising 2.92 ERA in eight starts in AA ball. His cool name wouldn't hurt either, it has huge fan favorite potential.

    In addition to those two, the Twins might be able to get the Dodgers to cough up a draft pick or two to fully even things out.

Turn to the MLB's Communal Farm System

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 14:  Ryan Doumit #41 of the Pittsburgh Pirates waits in the dugout before the start of their game against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on April 14, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Twins get: Ryan Doumit, Jameson Taillon/Stetson Allie

    Pirates get: Justin Morneau

    Joe Mauer has can make some amazing digs, and his long legs would be great for stretching on close plays. That's right, the Twins former MVP Justin Morneau could get shipped off to make room for Joe at first base. Before you write this possibility off as crazy, just think about it for just a second. 

    Morneau might be a perennial all-star for the next five to eight years if he recovers from his concussion streak, so the upside to this trade is limitless for Pittsburgh. Lyle Overbay is getting older and his production is already starting to dip, so he is only a very temporary solution at first base. If Morneau doesn't ever recover, he'll still at least be as good as he is now (batting .237 with a couple home runs), which is sadly very comparable to Overbay's output. At any rate, Morneau is a major fielding upgrade over Lyle, which would be a big deal for Pittsburgh's defense.

    Ryan Doumit is one of the best proven catchers in the MLB and he's been hiding in the shadows in Pittsburgh. He's still got a few good years left in the tank, definitely enough to hold the Twins over until Danny Rams is ready, and he wouldn't actually be that huge of a step down from Joe Mauer. He's batting .291 this year with four deep balls and 15 RBI's. The RBI total would easily be higher on any other team too. It would basically be the Twins swapping huge potential and inconsistency for average potential and consistency.

    The Pirates are itching to get rid of Doumit soon anyways with promising up and comer Tony Sanchez eagerly waiting in the wings. He's just starting AA ball this year and he's already batting .277, indicating that he could be in AAA before the year ends. At the rate the Pirates are going, he could get tossed into the fire as a starter as soon as next year anyways. Considering that Sanchez is gunning for Doumit's spot and that Morneau starting to look like his old self (.264 average with 2 HR in May), the trade would also warrant a top prospect for the Twins.

    In return for Morneau and clearing roster space, the Twins could shoot for either of the Pirates top pitching prospects. Jameson Taillon is only 19 years and has three good pitches, with his fastball falling only 1 mph shy of 100. He could easily be a number one starter a few years down the line. Allie can also throw high 90's heat with a 98 mph fastball, but he's better suited as a reliever. Either of these guys would instantly become top 5 prospects in the Twins farm system and allow Minnesota to get the most bang for their buck with Morneau.