Is Mauer worth $184M?

It was only just over eight years ago the Twins were deemed to be "contracted" which was baseball's version of foreclosing on them due to various financial issues (high debt-to-value ratio). On Nov. 6, 2001, owners voted 28-2 to contract two teams for the 2002 baseball season. MLB did not announce the teams at the time, but the Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins were rumored to be the odd teams out.

In the spring of 2001, the Twins franchise value according to Forbes magazine was $99-million, lower than every team except the Expos.

Flash forward over eight years and the Twins are not only still alive and kicking, but they’re dishing out more than double their 2001 value to one player. Does that mean Joe Mauer is worth almost twice as much as every Twin on the 2002 team? It sounds like a ridiculous question, and one that’s impossible to quantify, but Mauer certainly has a case.

Largest Pct Increase in Franchise Value '01 to '09
Source: Forbes Magazine

The Twins are now valued at $356M – 22nd in the majors. They’re still a small-market team by any measure, but are also one of the fastest growing franchises in baseball. Since 2001 the Twins value has increased by 259 percent, the second-largest growth in the majors.

While a number of variables factor into their growth, Mauer is certainly a key piece to the puzzle. Since the hometown hero broke into the big leagues in 2004 the Twins attendance has increased in every season but one (a decrease of 486 from ’06 to ’07). By keeping Mauer, the most popular Twin since Kirby Puckett, the Twins are all but assured of remaining in the upper half of the league in attendance through the duration of his eight-year deal.

Twins Avg Attendance Since '04

There’s no denying the fact that Mauer is the Twins most valuable asset. From a business perspective the decision to keep him around was a no-brainer. But the following question will inevitably be asked by many: is $184M too much for a catcher?

According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, Mauer is now the highest paid catcher in terms of average annual salary by nearly $10M. His $23M per year deal is 43 percent more than Jorge Posada’s current $13.1M per year deal with the Yankees. Anyone in their right mind would take Mauer over Posada, but is he 43 percent better?

These are questions we could debate for days, but the bottom line is the Twins have locked up their franchise player through his 34th birthday. And to Twins fans, that sounds like a good deal no matter what the cost.

Craig Wachs and Katie Sharp contributed to this article