|Joe Mauer ends his 2013 season with a slash line of|
.324/.404./.476 and the third-highest OPS+ of his career.
Mauer told the media that he expects to be ready to roll come spring training, and what's more, he expects to be behind the plate. That's been Mauer's stock answer for years about the ever-present question about when or if he'll change positions: I'm a catcher.
What I found interesting was what Terry Ryan said on the radio pregame show. Ryan has, throughout the month-plus that Mauer's been out with this concussion, essentially agreed with Mauer. Monday evening, that changed.
In the radio bit, Ryan specifically said he's not making a categorical statement now about Mauer's future. He needs to talk to people before he does that, Ryan said, and specifically mentioned Mauer and Ron Gardenhire.
I draw three inferences from this.
- As I said here earlier this month, if the Twins want to make Mauer a first baseman (or right fielder or anything other than a primary catcher), they will do well to have Mauer on board with the decision.
- Given Mauer's public position on where he wants to play, the discussion is really only necessary if Ryan is inclined to move his franchise player from his preferred position.
- If Ron Gardenhire is in his final week as Twins manager, his input on what to do with Mauer isn't all that relevant. Implication: Gardy will be the manager next season.
The circumstances have changed in the past four weeks. Mauer's concussion has persisted longer than Ryan anticipated when it occurred. And catching prospect Josmil Pinto has been one big bright spot in a pretty miserable September for the Twins. (Pinto had two more hits Monday night, including the game-winner in the 11th inning.)
All this points to Mauer as the Twins first baseman next year. But Ryan left himself wriggle room Monday.