So Star Tribune
fifth columnist Jim Souhan thinks it's time to think about trading the MVP.
But a combination of modern baseball logic and Twins history suggests that if the Twins' decision-makers can't sign Mauer, they will be obligated to trade him.
The Twins and Shapiro have kept the details of their negotiations remarkably quiet, but my sense, after talking with a variety of people, is that the team has offered more than $20 million a year. If Shapiro is intent on pushing Mauer to $25 million or more a year, Mauer might find himself on the Johan Santana Shuttle out of town.
Twins history ought to teach us well on this one; after all, we had this come up just a couple years ago, during the winter of 2007-8. Our two-time Cy Young ace was on his way out of town one way or another, and everyone quickly became convinced that the Twins were obligated to trade him to get some value rather than just letting him walk as a free agent.
So what happened? Fledgling general manager Bill Smith dealt Santana to the Mets for a weak package of prospects, and he promptly led the National League in ERA and batters faced. Without him the Twins played their way to a tie in the division and a heartbreaking loss in Game 163, version 1.0. It's pretty clear that that trade cost the Twins a playoff appearance, and a reasonable shot at a World Series with one of the best pitchers in the game at the top of the rotation. It also cost two picks in the 2009 draft, one of which would certainly have been #31. If the Mets had signed Johan as a free agent the other would have been #24.
And that's the situation we're in again with the latest superstar, Joe Mauer. The 2010 Twins look destined for the playoffs again, but it's hard to see them making it without #7. Mauer's value is probably higher than Santana's was, but teams would still be purchasing only one year of play and the right to pay him incredible amounts of money. Plus teams are valuing prospects higher than ever. Dreams of a huge load of future superstars exist only in Souhan's head. The Twins might get a better package than the Santana deal, but they're not going to get a future Mauer, or anything close.
Hopefully if this issue ever really comes up, Smith will learn from his mistake, take the probable playoff year and the picks, and not let the idea of being "obligated" to trade Mauer go any farther than Souhan's ratty Selectric.