Friday, November 1, 2013

Joe Mauer and the Twins offseason

Joe Mauer and bullpen coach Bobby Cuellar talk
during spring training.
With the World Series over, baseball's offseason is officially on.

The Twins have held their organizational meetings. Presumably Terry Ryan and Co. know which minor leaguers they will elevate to the 40-man roster, know which free agents they'll pursue (contract offers cannot be made until Tuesday).

And, presumably, they know what they want to do with Joe Mauer.

By which I mean not should we trade him?  Mauer is not getting traded, and anybody who thinks a Mauer trade is a realistic option pays too much attention to the NFL and its phony contracts. No, the question is: Is Mauer our primary catcher, or is it time to find him a new position?

My opinion — and I say this while acknowledging that the Twins know more than I do about Mauer's health — has shifted sharply since Mauer's late August concussion. I now believe it's time to move him.

So far as we can glean from the public comments from Ryan and Ron Gardenhire, the status quo remains intact. Mauer's a catcher until somebody with some say in the matter — Mauer, Ryan, Gardenhire — says otherwise, and nobody has said otherwise.

The public focus, and maybe the true focus, of the Twins winter figures to be reshaping the starting rotation. But the lineup had big issues also, and how those issues will be addressed depends in no small part on what position Mauer plays.

If he's a catcher, the Twins need a first baseman; I don't envision them being excited about Chris Parmelee or Chris Colabello as Plan A there. If he's a first baseman, are the Twins comfortable with bat-first backstops Ryan Doumit and Josmil Pinto, or are they in the market for a better defender?

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