With the news that Joe Mauer reportedly is on revocable waivers, our analysts examine the future of Minnesota's favorite son and his eight-year, $184 million contract that expires in 2018, the Twins' needs and other seemingly immovable contracts.
1. Is Joe Mauer going anywhere, and if so, where?
Eric Karabell (@karabellespn), ESPN Insider: Joe Mauer isn't going anywhere. Yes, he is being paid a ton of money, but I don't think this Red Sox-Dodgers ridiculousness is the start of a crazy trend of rampant dumping of players. Mauer remains productive and unlike Carl Crawford, for example, is clearly tied to his franchise. Even if the Twins wanted to move him, which is doubtful, Mauer would have to agree to go, which is also doubtful.
Tristan Cockcroft (@SultanofStat), ESPN.com: After what the Dodgers showed us last week, I should never say never, but considering Mauer is a local product with a monstrous deal plus a no-trade clause, I'd consider a trade pretty unlikely. The Dodgers themselves might be the most logical destination; they've evidently got the cash and don't care how quickly they spend it. Everyone else is a long shot. I'd nominate the Angels next, considering their catching situation. But I sincerely believe this is procedural and that he stays put.
Nick Nelson (@nnelson9), Twins Daily: Absolutely not. I was shocked by the way this non-story blew up. I think it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding amongst fans about how revocable waivers work (admittedly, it's sort of a tricky subject). Players like Mauer are passed through waivers all the time around this stage of the season; there's no harm in doing so and frankly the Twins would not be doing their due diligence if they didn't.
2. Are the Twins better off having that money freed up? What should or could they do with it?
Karabell: The Twins have myriad needs when it comes to pitching, but as we'll probably find out this offseason with the Red Sox, just because you've got tens of millions of dollars to spend doesn't mean you'll do it correctly, or that there's enough good stuff to buy. Mauer is a top-five catcher. Move him to sign three Zack Greinke types and yes, you'll still need a catcher. The Twins are better off with Mauer.
Cockcroft: Yes, though that's entirely because Mauer is a soon-to-be-30-year-old catcher who will play six more seasons at $23 million apiece beginning in 2013, at least four of which probably won't even be as a catcher. And I've felt that way since he inked the deal. The longer he stays behind the plate, the greater the financial risk for the Twins; look at the regression of his defensive statistics in 2012 alone. Minnesota's pitching staff is a mess, and freeing up that cash could help the team address it in one of the coming winters. The bottom line is that this team can't win with the pitching it has while paying a player like Mauer such a large percentage of its payroll.
Nelson: This is a fair question. Mauer has returned to form this year, but it's still worth questioning whether a part-time catcher with elite on-base skills but modest power is worth a quarter of the payroll, especially as he's aging into his 30s for a rebuilding team with significant needs elsewhere. If the Twins dealt Mauer, they could use his $23 million to sign multiple high-end pitchers, which would arguably put them in better position going forward. Then again, with his full no-trade protection, the entire debate may be moot.
3. From Alex Rodriguez to Vernon Wells, we've seen seemingly huge big-money moves happen. Is there no such thing as an unmoveable monster contract? If you think there is, who has it?
Karabell: It's silly to say any contract is unmovable anymore, even the Ryan Howard deal. Justifying the Angels taking on Wells was tough, but in fairness he was coming off a 31-home run campaign in 2010. Howard's deal looks even worse in retrospect. But the Dodgers proved that if you want a new first baseman bad enough, you'll take on other contracts to make it happen. This won't be the last time.
Cockcroft: Again, with the Dodgers under new management, no, apparently there isn't an absolutely unmovable contract, at least not now that Barry Zito is down to one more season plus a buyout away from freeing the Giants of his horrific deal. But I'd nominate John Lackey's contract as one that I'd be floored to see unloaded. He's got more than $30 million due the next two seasons, a deal that at the time it was signed was clearly unadvisable; the Red Sox put in that 2015 option clause for the minimum salary depending upon the health of his elbow. Well, Lackey's elbow isn't in the best shape now, and I ask: Will the Red Sox even want Lackey for the minimum salary by 2015?
Nelson: You'd have to think Mauer's contract would rank as one of the most difficult to move. I'm a huge fan of his, but let's face the facts: He's got a lengthy injury history and his massive payday came on the basis of a 2009 season that he will almost certainly never replicate. If he were to become a free agent in the coming offseason, is there any chance he'd score a six-year, $138 million deal? I say no. So it's hard to envision any team giving up quality prospects for the right to take on that contract, and the Twins would have a tough time justifying a blatant salary dump with no return to sell to their fan base.