The Twins' hometown kid is staying anchored to home.
All-Star catcher Joe Mauer and Minnesota completed an eight-year, $184 million deal, a contract which will inevitably be hailed within baseball as an example that teams like the Twins do have a chance to keep their homegrown talent.
Mauer is generally regarded as the American League's best player and may be baseball's most coveted player, given his unique set of skills. Mauer, who turns 27 next month, already has won three batting titles and two Gold Glove Awards, and last year, he began to hit for power, posting a 1.031 OPS.
If Mauer had become a free agent in the fall, he probably would have been the most coveted free agent since Rodriguez reached free agency after the 2000 season. With the use of total free-agent leverage, Mauer might have commanded a deal for something in the range of $250 million in the fall.
But all along, Mauer -- taken by the Twins' No. 1 overall in the same year that Mark Prior was eligible for the draft -- indicated a desire to remain with the Twins in his hometown of St. Paul surrounded by family and friends. Barring a last-minute hold-up, it appears that he will play his entire career for the Twins.
The Twins' signing of Mauer to a long-term deal is going to be viewed as a strong development for Major League Baseball, at a time when there are growing concerns about the disparity between teams like the Yankees and Red Sox, and teams that generate less revenue like the Rays, Athletics and Twins.
A major challenge for the Twins -- who have evolved from a small-market team into a club with a mid-range budget -- will be how they can compete while paying one player such a high percentage of their payroll. The Rockies made a similar investment in Todd Helton during the last decade, and while Helton has performed well during the course of the contract, his high salary restricted Colorado from making other moves.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.